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Nov 5, 2012

A workshop to protect cultural heritage

It can be argued that cultures are the psychological DNA of a people. The unique strands of dance, folklore, traditions and even speech bind people within a national framework. That is why the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is attempting to sensitize Belizeans about the UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage Convention which was launched in Belize today at the House of Culture. Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Belize has a priceless cultural heritage from the Mayas, the Garinagu, Creoles, Mestizos and the Mennonites. But is the culture being lost with the many influences that plague our society? Thirty persons from across the country along with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and NICH are participating in a five-day workshop to identify cultures that are in danger.


Nigel Encalada

Nigel Encalada, Director, Institute for Social and Cultural Research

“In Belize we are famous for Maya ruins and the Maya heritage, but one of the things that we would also like to promote are the people of Belize, the way we interact, the way we communicate with each other in every setting: rural, urban, at home, at school, in the workplace and it is there that culture is alive and those are the intangibles. At times if you don’t pay attention to it, you won’t see it. the things we talk for granted: when we talk Creole, when we talk Spanish or Garifuna and you know the language is the main way through which culture is transmitted.  By way of safeguarding, preservation and promotion, we will try to identify those which are most endangered, at risk of being loss, and then subsequent to that, look to identify ways through which we can safeguard and preserve those. And of course that involves finding funding, technical help; getting the people at the grassroots level in Belize involved for the preservation and safeguarding of those cultural forms.”


It is a two and a half years pilot project that is being done in Jamaica, Trinidad and Belize which will focus essentially on the protection and promotion of the cultural diversity of the world. UNESCO’s Programme Specialists for Culture, Himalchuli Gurung says that funding comes courtesy of the government of Japan.


Himalchuli Gurung

Himalchuli Gurung, Programme Specialist for Culture, UNESCO

“Thanks to the extra budgetary funds that we have received from the government of Japan, we’ve been able to launch this program in Belize Jamaica and Trinidad. This is the first phase; the project lasts for two and a half years because every project has to come to an end. But I am very please because this is the first workshop at the national level and we are having it here in Belize. The follow up with be the capacity building; documenting and implementing the ICH because it is everywhere, everybody knows it is there. And here are a lot of actors trying to preserve; safeguard the intangible heritage; but we need to come together and coordinate at the national level.”


Intangible cultural heritage include the performing arts, rituals, traditions, language, cuisine, costumes, and belief systems. And both Gurung and the Director of the Institute for Social and Cultural research, Nigel Encalada, say that awareness is key to the safeguarding and protecting the cultural heritage.


Himalchuli Gurung

“The challenge would be first and foremost the clear understanding of the conventions. Yeah these are international instruments, but how much are the grassroots really aware of these conventions? So that’s the challenge. And for that it is not a matter of a member state ratifying and that’s the end of the story. No, you have to socialize it at the grassroots level; people have to understand. And particularly for this 2003 convention which is a key culture convention that gives importance to the communities who practice.”


Duane Moody

“What do you feel is really needed to safeguard this? Implementing it in schools? What is it that is needed to ensure the preservation of these cultures?”


Nigel Encalada

“Awareness is the first thing; socialization just to create the awareness about the things that we already take for granted. On a more technical aspect, there are some models that exist in our country already—work that is being done by the Gulisi School in Dangriga. They use the Intercultural Bilingual Approach. So they have English on the curriculum, but it is also paralleled with the Garifuna language. It is the same thing with Tumuilkin for example in Blue Creek Toledo; that model also exists there. So on two extremes awareness for the general population and implementing like those that are already exist; we have models for it.”


According to Gurung, this pilot project will be used as a model to engage other countries from the region to also ratify the convention. Duane Moody for News Five.


Future workshops will include documenting the heritage of communities.

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2 Responses for “A workshop to protect cultural heritage”

  1. Storm says:

    People need to guard against letting their “cultural differences” divide them or keep them in their small groups. I prefer to look at a person’s humanity instead of the ethnic group or “culture.” The concept of “kultur” was the foundation of the Hitlerian “Aryan superman” myth, which was entirely bogus.

    I technically have the blood of 3 different races in my veins, but I never think much about it — just that like everyone else, I’m a child of God. I can honor my heritages without letting them define or limit me.

    I’m not sure why the UN should emphasize the wedges that divide us.

  2. History Minded says:

    Dear Storm:

    The initiative is not aimed at dividing. The internationalist list of ICH rather is to promote cooperation at the various levels: community, nation, and international. For instance, measures to safeguard the language of Garifuna can be executed in Belize and in Honduras/Guatemala. This fosters unity.

    Culture is the totality of human behavior – learnt and shared. Our “humanity” is a result of our socialization with a specific culture and social space.

    Hitler did not operate on this principle. He operated on the principle of “high-culture” and “ethnocentrism” which is contrary to the UN principle of “fostering peace in the minds of people”.

    Kindly take a look at the Convention:

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