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Nov 15, 2001

Garifuna culture honoured by UNESCO

Story PictureThis
morning Dangriga’s Alejo Beni Park was the venue for a very special event:
the presentation of UNESCO’s proclamation designating the Garifuna culture
as a “masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.” News
5′s Jacqueline Woods reports.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
In the ceremony marking the occasion, Prime Minister Said Musa presented
UNESCO’s award to the president of the National Garifuna Council, Roy
Cayetano. Cayetano, who accepted the award on behalf of the Garifuna people,
says it symbolises the struggles and achievements that took place over
the past two hundred years to preserve the Garifuna culture.

Roy Cayetano, President, Nat’l Garifuna Council
“It really is a miracle that the culture has survived this long. And
there are so many forces at work against it, yet, it has remained rich,
it has remained strong and it’s a miracle. We’ve always known that there
is something in it, but we have not always had the sense that the rest
of the world appreciated it.”

Cayetano says just as there is a need to preserve biological diversity,
he is pleased that UNESCO has decided to give cultural diversity similar

Roy Cayetano
“There is hope in the fact that there is now an oral and Intangible
Heritage Unit at UNESCO that is dedicated to doing just that. So we’re
hoping that as a result of this new awareness, awareness of the value
of oral heritage, intangible heritage, heritage that you can’t touch,
that’s what culture is. It’s in the soul, it’s in the mind, it’s in the
heart. It’s language, it’s dance, it’s music, it’s religion, it’s spirituality.
It is what the people believe, it is the way of doing things. That through
the work of this unit more assistance, more support can be forthcoming.”

Cordel Hyde, Min. of Education
“We cannot allow the Garifuna heritage to die, when it’s elders die.
We must never allow the Garifuna heritage to die. And so it is that UNESCO
has proclaimed the cultural space of the Garifuna a masterpiece of oral
and intangible heritage of humanity. To ensure it’s survival without prejudicing
it’s future development. But being proclaimed by UNESCO is no guarantee
of actual preservation. We must continue to find ways to ensure that the
Garifuna youth take on the challenge to carry on the language, the dance,
the music and the tradition of the culture.”

Many believe the award would not have been possible without the submission
of the video documentary “Garifuna Heritage”. The production was officially
launched during the award ceremony.

Andy Palacio, Producer, Garifuna Heritage
“It’s very emotional for me because this sense of achievement is one
that I’ve been looking for, for a very long time. I deal with Garifuna
music and it is very difficult to separate language from the music, it’s
very difficult to separate dance from music. And as a language, music
and dance as one entity, is truly a masterpiece when we talk about Garifuna
culture. I’m so proud of this, the hard work really paid off and this
just proves that determination can bring good fruit.”

Although the Garinagu have been able to preserve their language, music
and dance in the face of many challenges, the N.G.C. admits that the reluctance
of young people to speak Garifuna does not bode well for the future. To
prevent that outcome, they are plans to work with schools and establish
a learning institution. Cayetano says they are also appealing to the government
to increase their support for cultural programmes.

Roy Cayetano
“We are pushing for the establishment of own our institutions. Institutions
that would not be exclusive to Garifuna people, because we believe that
whatever we have we should share with the rest of the world. And one the
things that the UNESCO proclamation has done, is to recognise Garifuna
language, music and dance as a heritage of humanity. Not only as a heritage
of, but a masterpiece, which means that it doesn’t just belong to us the
Garifuna people, it’s a legacy of the whole world, of all humanity.”

A total of sixty countries made presentations for the UNESCO award, but
only nineteen of those entries were honoured. Reporting for News 5, Jacqueline

The video production “The Garifuna Heritage” will be aired by television
stations nation-wide over the next several days, including right here
on Channel 5 on Friday night.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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