A visiting professor from Afghanistan is learning about cultural conservation in order to take what she learns back to her country.
Muzhgan Hamraz, is a professor from Kabul University in Afghanistan who came to Arizona through the UA’s Heritage Conservation Program. Hamraz said she’s hoping the knowledge she gains here will allow her to expand the class options at her own university. She has suggested that Kabul University add three courses to its curriculum: culture heritage conservation, ethnography of Native Americans and site management.
Hamraz has visited multiple historical sites and museums in Arizona and has also visited downtown Tucson. She said the cultural difference between Tucson and Afghanistan is clear.
“I have seen different layers of historical culture, which started from Native Americans,” Hamraz said. “After that, the invasion of Spanish colonies, and after that, the European invasion. All of these have their own culture and impact on Arizona state.”
Suzanne Bott, program director for the UA’s heritage conservation outreach programs said the program to bring Afghan scholars to the U.S. is being funded by the state and education departments, and has been in the making for five years. The UA was chosen to host the program because of its location and talent, Bott said.
“I think [we were chosen] because of our arid lands expertise, earth and architecture expertise, state museum and the breadth of the project team members,” she said.
The project is important because it will teach Afghans how to preserve and protect their history, Bott added.
“There just hasn’t been opportunity to do that with 30 years of civil war and occupation and the current war that’s been going on,” Bott said. “It’s a really unique situation where they can come here and experience it and then take those tools home.”
The project’s team has been working closely with the university library to study new research methods and online resources. They have also been working with the Arizona State Museum and the College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture.
Hamraz said she is looking forward to visiting more historical sites, both in Arizona and across the U.S., because of her interest in Native American culture.
“She’s really smart, and she tries to learn,” said Aysan Abdollahzadeh a graduate student studying planning and the research assistant for Hamraz’s project. “She wants to get it and do her best because she’s here to learn.”
Heritage conservation is critical to any culture, especially in war-torn areas, because it emphasizes a shared cultural identity, Bott said.
“Cultural heritage has been shown to be one of the most important factors in helping nations recover their identity after traumatic events, like war and natural disasters,” Bott said. “That’s a really strong unifying factor, so for Afghanistan, this is extremely important that they be able to own their cultural identity.”
– Follow Jazmine Foster-Hall @Jazz_Foster
This article first appeared in dailywildcat.com. Click here to go to the original