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Jun 23, 2017

NICH and Media Hold a Conversation about Culture

Culture is defined in Bella Carib’s 1998 song “Proud A Mi Kulcha” as, “the concepts, habits, skills, instruments and institutions of a given people, in a given period.” The National Institute of Culture and History broadens it to include not only the arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of human beings, value systems, traditions and beliefs. Last March, a ten-year National Cultural Policy was presented to a diverse audience, many of whom participated in its creation, seeking to guide the safeguarding and preservation of Belize’s cultural heritage, promoting artistic expression, and enabling social and economic development through culture. With the national discussion rapidly evolving, NICH has turned to its media partners to discuss and navigate the way forward in promotion of culture, both tangible and intangible. Aaron Humes has more from the Belize City House of Culture.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

What is culture? Belize is a nation of many ethnicities, values, beliefs and morals. These have been encapsulated in the National Cultural Policy presented last March, specifically the Bill of Cultural Rights emphasizing culture as the center of the Belizean humanity. The accompanying national culture model establishes that culture emanates from all demographic sectors and their collaboration is necessary for advancement. But the National Institute of Culture and History and particularly, the Institute for Social and Cultural Research wants the press to play a key role.

 

Nigel Encalada

Nigel Encalada, Director, Institute for Social and Cultural Research

“We recognize that the media is an important arm of the way things are done now in Belize and rightly so, because the media is a educational arm, one of the major educational arms of the society. And so one of the things we have been doing here today is looking at the National Cultural Policy, what is the role of NICH; what has NICH been doing with respect to the cultural policy, introducing the philosophies and the strategic objectives; but most importantly, having a discussion with the media about ways we can collaborate in advance of the cultural agenda in Belize.”

 

With four divisions – the ISCR, the Institute of Archaeology, the Institute of Creative Arts, and the Museum of Belize/ Houses of Culture – NICH is directly responsible for all things cultural from Altun Ha to the Belize Zoo. But how can it get all that it wants done and even more on a slim budget of eight million dollars, most coming from the fees to visit the Maya archaeological reserves and sites – not ‘ruins’ anymore? NICH, says Encalada, envisions a closer working relationship with the Fourth Estate to promote positive aspects of Belizean culture side-by-side with the usual diet of crime, corruption and sensation.

 

Nigel Encalada

“The media has a role in exposing the negative components of our society, the negative issues in our society – bringing it to light, making people aware of what is going wrong in the society. But from another perspective, we are hopeful that cultural awareness and cultural appreciation could play a more important role in how the media portrays Belize. So for example from a psychological standpoint, we imagine what it would do to a society if the lead items in the news per se, would be cultural items: items of historic importance; items of Belizeans achieving and succeeding; items of ordinary Belizeans working, making contributions to society. We wonder what it would do for the psychology of a society if culture is made as a top priority in terms of how we portray society.  What we are working toward now is this concept of not only capacity building but also capacity sharing. So for example, if the media says to NICH for example, ‘Can you provide us with more content’ – as powerful as you are – then we would be obligated to place greater emphasis in generating the content that would be used; but at the same time, we would like to request that it be given a sort of higher place in the hierarchy of issues that are presented to the Belizean society. Because the psychology that we are working with is that by presenting our culture we are seeing ourselves in a positive light, and perhaps over the long term that may help to transform the way we view ourselves and our society – the appreciation which can drive development ultimately.”

 

In keeping with its objectives, Encalada says NICH wants to make culture part of the running dialogue of our society in a more positive way.

 

Nigel Encalada

“Culture is everything that we do; and it plays an important part in how our society develops. And so even the way in which the media presents issues – the discussion today was geared towards thinking more carefully about what are the dynamics of the society we have and using that as a starting point to generate further and more in-depth discussions about the complex issues that affect us. So it looks at further linkages both in terms of what is produced on T.V., what said on radio, what’s said on the talk shows; what’s produced in print; what’s done on social media, but more specifically for the media to assist us in producing positive content for a society that is imperiled by crime and corruption.”

 

As Bella Carib would say, don’t be ashamed of our culture; be proud of our culture. Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

The National Cultural Policy links culture to creative industries, education and environment, tourism, youth and sports, as well as standing in the region. The policy proposes, in part, to conserve and restore Belize’s historic sites and landmarks; promote research on traditional medicinal practices and national art and history education; establish a Cultural Development Fund and the national brand; invest in cultural and creative industries; protect intellectual property; train and promote youth in technology, sports and culture; encourage international cultural exchange; promote culturally based environmental protection initiatives; and develop national festivals and a national day of Belizean cultures. Another media workshop takes place on Saturday in Belmopan for media houses in the remaining districts.

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