Natural heritage and culture are not often linked as a winning combination and are sometimes even regarded as complete opposites. To recognise the connection between cultural and natural heritage, ICOMOS organises the annual Culture-Nature Prize. By combing protection, management and sustainable development of heritage places, Culture-Nature initiatives aim to build resilience to today’s challenges of climate change, pollution and rapid urbanisation. This is all done in by or in cooperation with local communities.
The jury received 31 candidatures for the Culture-Nature Prize from all five geographical regions, with a majority from Asia and the Pacific region. The jury considered the applications according to the evaluation criteria: impact, community engagement and innovation. Although none of the eight nominations from Europe made the cut, the three prize winners and two special mentions will certainly inspire people across the globe.
1st Place (€6000): Maya Biocultural Landscapes: Co-creating an Illustrated Dictionary and a Species Inventory, Guatemala
Deep in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, the San Bartolo murals, the oldest and most complex Maya artwork in situ, depict an origin mythology within an animate tropical forest landscape. The prize money will fund the creation of an illustrated dictionary of the murals’ biota and topographic features. It will be paired with a “Species Inventory” from a 300 km2 area surrounding the site, interconnecting the tangible and dynamic natural world with complex ancient and contemporary beliefs, traditional knowledge systems, ethnolinguistics, and community histories. In addition, this will fund workshops with the Indigenous community.
2nd Place (€6000): Safeguarding of Sacred Masks through the Practice of Early Brushfires, Burkina Faso
This project supports the efforts of the nuni communities of sacred masks in their actions of sustainable safeguarding and transmission of heritage. Every three years, these communities practice a great ritual ceremony in a sacred forest, combining sacred masks and early brushfires, on the occasion of which culture and nature become a single entity. The prize money will help local communities to continue to fund this ritual ceremony.
3rd Place (€3000): Protection of Traditional Gardens in Qazvin, Iran
This initiative aims to protect traditional gardens in Qazvin, Iran. Team members consisting of representatives of associations active in areas related to the city’s historic gardens will assist gardeners and farmers and inform the citizens about the garden’s cultural assets by holding social, cultural and artistic events, in order to reduce the amount of intentional destruction of the gardens. The prize money will help raise awareness in order to establish a legal structure to continue an existing practice of community gardening.
Special mentions (€2500 each): Sustaining Nature Culture Journey of Chakmas through Generations, India
Chakmas, living in the Namdapha National Park region of eastern Arunachal, are advanced in terms of their education, biodiversity knowledge, and cultural skills. Their traditional medicinal knowledge, weaving, basketry, and house-making skills reflect their self-sufficiency and coexistence with nature. The prize money will support the Chakma community to develop and implement a curriculum for the transmission of Chakma culture and traditions through classroom education and workshops in the local community school.
Public-Based Monitoring of Cultural Heritage in Yanqing UNESCO Global Geopark, China
Located in the mountainous Yanqing District of Beijing, the programme, launched in 2018, aims at promoting public awareness and education about heritage conservation while enabling local people to look deeply into the interrelation between the natural and cultural environment they live in. A cooperative network has been established to promote public-based heritage monitoring, heritage inspection training, and preventive conservation practices through the use of technology. The prize money will contribute to funding workshops with community volunteers, who are already being trained in how to document growth on the Great Wall of China with an applet.
This year, ICOMOS relies again on the generosity of the public to organise the 2023 ICOMOS Culture-Nature Prize. The goal is to raise another €15.000 on 29 November 2022, to fund next year’s prize winners.