World Heritage Day, 2019: New Group Uses Media to Preserve Jamaica’s Built Heritage

Thursday, April 18, 2019 is UNESCO World Heritage Day. This year, appropriately, it will focus on heritage rural sites. I will share a few photos that I have taken in a gallery tomorrow – including photos I took of one of UNESCO’s Top Five World Heritage Sites – in Sri Lanka, which is deep in the lush countryside. 

Here in Jamaica, we have our own built heritage that can be found deep in rural areas. You may have seen rural homes of great character and charm that are crumbling, in various parts of the island. They make me so sad. These are not monuments (although I believe those are important too) – these are people’s lives.

I wrote about the recently formed WARE Collective’s efforts to revive the old tradition of “wattle and daub” in the parish of St. Elizabeth. In the context of climate change and environmental awareness, it makes perfect sense. Here is an update for World Heritage Day.

Rediscover treasures in old ruins: New group preserves Jamaica’s built heritage, launches web campaign to mark World Heritage Day 2019

A “Spanish Wall” building in south St. Elizabeth. (Photo: WARE Collective)

Kingston, Jamaica, April 17, 2019: The Wattle and Red Earth (WARE) Collective calls the public to document, celebrate and preserve Jamaica’s built heritage. The group welcomes personal photographs, videos and community stories of traditional buildings to its website. This web campaign is to commemorate World Heritage Day 2019.

In March the group launched a 20-minute documentary, “Rockstone and Fire” featuring interviews with Southfield, St. Elizabeth’s master builder, Orville “Guy” Parchment, community elders and youth. It further captures the dying art of building and burning limestone kilns to produce white lime for Spanish Wall buildings.

The film’s three (3) public screenings at the Archaeological Society of Jamaica, University of the West Indies, the Caribbean School of Architecture and the Premiere in Mayfield, St. Elizabeth met with an enthusiastic response from over 300 hundred persons. An attendee described the film as “clear and interesting and documented valuable knowledge to be shared with new generations.”

Each year, neglect strips rural communities of charming traditional old structures such as those made from limestone, earth and wattle and daub. The Wattle and Red Earth Collective promote the renovation and preservation of these traditional buildings for future social and economic purposes.

Built heritage preservation can offer climate-smart, sustainable and innovative solutions for Jamaica’s future. Rockstone and Fire illustrates if traditional skills and knowledge are preserved, conscientious use of abundant natural resources like limestone offer “green building” materials. These materials conserve energy, minimize environmental degradation, hazardous by-products, and excessive processing waste.

To preserve Jamaica’s rich cultural, historic and natural resources WARE plans to create a living museum of built heritage and crafts. “Our built environment is central to sustaining identity, pride, and economy,” says renowned architectural preservationist, Dr. Vince Michael. A WARE Collective survey shows 85% of respondents felt building preservation was either “extremely important” or “important”. The Collective believes when preserved and celebrated these storied buildings introduce unique and timeless attractions for locals and foreigners to enjoy.

About the Wattle and Red Earth Collective: WARE Collective was formed in 2017 and promotes the preservation of historic structures and traditional building methods through advocacy, education, responsible stewardship, and sustainable development. 

WARE Collective members address a film screening audience at the Caribbean School of Architecture in Kingston. (Photo: WARE Collective)

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