Friendship Cultural Preservation: Conserving Bangladeshi cultural heritage

Friendship Cultural Preservation: Conserving Bangladeshi cultural heritage
Photo: Friendship Bangladesh

For more than two decades, Friendship has been a non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of Bangladesh by empowering communities and promoting sustainable livelihoods. They have been leading the charge to protect and promote the country's distinct heritage through their Friendship Cultural Preservation programme. This began with the preservation of wooden boatbuilding and the creation of museum-quality replicas of the largest wooden boat fleet globally. Their efforts have resulted in impressive results, with over 400,000 individuals visiting 20 of Friendship's exhibitions, both in Bangladesh and abroad.

For centuries, Bangladesh has been renowned for its rich cultural heritage, from the intricately woven fabrics to the stunning wooden boats that once sailed the country's vast waterways. However, as modernisation and globalisation took hold, many of these traditional arts and crafts began to fade into obscurity, replaced by cheaper, mass-produced alternatives.

Friendship looked into the matter differently, recognizing that many other traditional crafts and weaves were also under threat. The organisation expanded its reach to encompass a wide range of artisans and craftsmen, from handloom weavers to brass workers, tribal bead makers, to silver jewellers.

Through a combination of community outreach, awareness-raising campaigns, and sustainable livelihood programs, Friendship has successfully revived many of these dying arts, creating new opportunities for local artisans and women and preserving the cultural heritage of Bangladesh for future generations.

One of the key strategies employed by Friendship is the creation of museum-quality replicas of traditional wooden boats, like their B613 Malar boat, which are sold to patrons and collectors around the world. This not only provides a sustainable income stream for the last generation of wooden boat builders but also helps to promote awareness and appreciation of this unique cultural heritage.

Similarly, Friendship has worked closely with local weavers, artisans, and craftspeople to develop new products that highlight their traditional skills and techniques. From handcrafted silver jewellery to hand-carved wooden homeware, these products are sold through retail outlets like their Friendship Colours of the Chars and online platforms, bringing Bangladesh's rich cultural heritage to a global audience.

Through these efforts, Friendship has breathed new life into the traditional arts and crafts of Bangladesh, creating sustainable livelihoods for local communities and ensuring that these valuable cultural treasures will be preserved for generations to come. As the organisation continues to expand its reach and collaborate with new partners, like their recent collaboration with Preema Arte Foundation to host 20 Bangladeshi and Indian artists, the cultural renaissance of Bangladesh shows no signs of slowing down.