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Oct 1, 2013

A workshop to strengthen efforts to record Belize’s rich cultural diversity

In Orange Walk Town today, a national workshop got underway to strengthen efforts to record Belize’s rich cultural diversity. The workshop is sponsored by UNESCO in partnership with NICH. Its objective is to ensure that Belize’s cultural forms are safeguarded. Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Almost a year ago, the National Institute of Culture and History through the Institute for Social and Cultural Research along with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) embarked on a two and a half year project to protect and promote the cultural diversity of the world. An initial workshop was held to identify cultures within Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad that are in danger of losing both its tangible and intangible heritage. The project is a part of UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

 

Himalchuli Gurung, Programme Specialist in Culture, UNESCO

Himalchuli Gurung

“One of the priority areas that member states requested to UNESCO—and when I say member state, Belize is one of the member states—the implementation of capacity building on implementing the convention. Many countries around the world has ratified the convention but it hasn’t been implemented in the best possible way. And why is that? Because there needs to be a capacity. Hence, UNESCO developed this sub-regional project called building capacity on safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage with the fundings from the government of Japan.”

 

Today, at the Banquitas House of Culture, various cultural councils gathered in their cultural-wear for day one of an eight-day national workshop on how to collect data on their respective cultural language, rituals, traditions, cuisine, and way of life.

 

Nigel Encalada

Nigel Encalada, Director, Institute for Social and Cultural Research

“We have people who live different ways; who have different beliefs, who have different traditions and customs. They might have similar functions to other cultures, but it means that we are a country that is rich in our cultural forms. And the reason they are here today is so that we could begin the process of developing the technical capacity and to support the work that is already going on in their communities toward the developing of this inventory of Belize intangible cultural forms. The goal is not to just document and write about it and talk about it; the goal is to ensure the survival of cultural forms, language, dance; beliefs and to ensure that these continue to survive and is transmitted from one generation to the next.”

 

But how does Belize preserve what seems to be withering away with the younger generation? By documenting, organizing, accessing and updating information which should be readily available to the youth, stakeholders believe that cultures will no longer be endangered.

 

Nigel Encalada

“One of the things that we have recognized is that the language spoken at home and the first language is based on geographic location. That is one factor. Another is that we recognize that the mainstream education system does not seem to accommodate in its current form the teaching of subject matter in the language that is spoken at home. But the beautiful thing about that in Belize right now, I think there are at least three schools in which there is a model that can be replicated and implemented in other parts of the country. There is a model called intercultural bilingual education and you might be familiar with Gulisi for example or Tumulkin or Curassow Creek in Southern Belize…these are schools that are using the language at home to educate within the mainstream system. So the culture policy speaks to Belizeans becoming at least bilingual on a whole. So whether it is English and Spanish or Maya and English or Spanish and Maya, but you understand the combinations.”

 

Himalchuli Gurung

“We know that NICH has put in its efforts in documents, videoing, recording. But in order to have successful documentation, you need to build the capacity of community members so this workshop is trying to do just that.”

 

One language that is really on the verge of going extinct in Belize is the Yucatec Maya language. Duane Moody for News Five.

 

Aside from the three participating countries so far, the project will be extended to the other countries that have ratified the UNESCO 2003 Convention to safeguard intangible cultural heritage. 

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