The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Rohingya refugee community in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, have just launched the website of the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre, making official the project in which Lurdes Macedo, a researcher at the Communication and Society Research Centre, collaborates as a consultant in Cultural Studies.
The Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre offers a community space on the ground, and now also online, with an interactive gallery, digital archive and web exhibition. This is one of the most significant initiatives to document and preserve the cultural heritage of the Rohingya people, originally from Rakhine state in Myanmar. The website can be accessed here.
Currently, there are nearly 1 million Rohingyas in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, who live with limited means of expression. The Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre provides psychosocial support through cultural activities as well as an advocacy space, giving a voice to this community who were victims of genocide in 2017.
In 2019, IOM researchers in Cox’s Bazar, under the coordination of David Palazón and Lurdes Macedo, began collecting and documenting the cultural practices of the Rohingya community, then producing a comprehensive ethnographic and cultural map detailing the central aspects of this people’s identity. The centre tells the Rohingya story through a comprehensive collection of cultural assets and artworks, produced by Rohingya refugee artists living in the camps. This collection seeks to be a portrait of culture with rich traditions, reflecting on its past, its present and its future, while exploring the tensions between tradition and innovation, memory and imagination, displacement and belonging. It combines tangible and intangible heritage objects, such as traditional architectural models, embroidery, ceramics, basketry, woodwork, visual arts, music, storytelling, or poetry.
By providing the Rohingya community with the tools and platform to tell their story, the centre seeks to address the ‘identity crisis’, named by three-quarters of refugees as one of the reasons for their malaise. The project thus acts as a foundation for the preservation and appreciation of their rich culture, contributing to the strengthening of the collective identity of the Rohingya population.