|The central belfry of the Banner of Peace Monument|
we headed out on foot. We carefully avoided the waves of water surging off the tires of passing vehicles as they sped through ankle-deep puddles when they came and went from the massive shopping centers huddled next to the highway.
|Signs in English (above) and in French (below) dedicating|
the monument to children everywhere
The inauguration of the Banner of Peace Monument marked the occasion of the first International Children’s Assembly “Banner of Peace” in Sofia, which was held in accord with the International Year of the Child designated by UNESCO in 1979. The program was created by Lyudmila Zhivkova and continued after her death, in 1981, until 1990. The motto of the Children’s Assembly program, still visible on the monument, was “unity, creativity and beauty.” It encouraged the peaceful interaction of children from all over the world, but also suggested that all individuals can contribute to peace, upon which the future relies, through the embodiment of this motto.
|The circular enclosure of nearly 100 bells, each representing|
a country or international organization
which contributed to the monument’s creation
The title “Banner of Peace” has further significance, however, and references the Roerich Pact of 1935, signed into law by the United States and the majority of member states of the Pan-American Union. The Pact was intended to protect artistic and scientific institutions as well as cultural monuments, during times of both war and peace. The Banner of Peace, a white flag with a red circle within which are three red spheres, designated these sites as neutral. Furthermore, for Nicholas Roerich, who attributed the ideas of the Pact, a nation’s cultural heritage was of global significance and had the potential to facilitate unity and peace: cultural heritage has the unique ability to unite despite the differences it may embody. These principles were and continue to be repeated within subsequent international agreements such as The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954) and in the development of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (1972).
|Sign saying that only children may ring the bells,|
but not too loudly
The state of the monument indicates how the process of peace has fluctuated over time. Additionally, it illustrates how the cultural landscape can communicate that which is typically written and spoken of elsewhere. It is this understanding that encourages me to continue looking at cultural landscape as a source of both information and inspiration, in particular for its potential in peace-building efforts. It also suggests the importance of a trans-disciplinary approach, one which was found during my experience at ARCS, where I could consider the landscape from the perspective of my colleagues: a historian, anthropologist, archaeologist, sociologist and classicist, in turn.
Image Credit: Caroline Wisler
This blog was originally posted on the REEEC Center E-News page on September 26, 2013.
Caroline Wisler is a doctoral student in the Department of Landscape Architecture and a FLAS Fellow for Academic Year 2012 – 2013. With the joint support of a Research Fellowship from the American Research Center Sofia (ARCS), Caroline spent the fall semester conducting research on cultural heritage and studying the Serbo-Croatian language in Sofia, Bulgaria.