A five-day regional United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) series of workshops focused on preserving cultural heritage commenced at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort yesterday, September 8. The project is called “Strengthening the capacities of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Saba and Suriname to implement the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH).” This writes The Daily Herald.
This week’s workshops are expected to bring together key stakeholders of said countries that are involved in the implementation of policies relating to safeguarding heritage and to facilitate dialogue at the sub-regional level that will contribute to the successful implementation of the Convention. Participants shared what progress had been made since the last sub-regional meeting was held on Aruba in April 2013.
While the participants generally had not achieved the passing of concrete policies, all had made progress in sensitising, being able to inform, and documenting and sharing ICH. Documentation by video seemed an important step for many participants. Besides progress made in sensitising and informing the public, among other steps, the St. Maarten delegation shared an historical-to- modern day video on the island and a well-received performance by the National Institute of Art that featured poetry, song, drumming and the Ponum dance.
The protection and documentation of culture in the broadest sense was encouraged as something that should be carried out as soon as possible, even if it concerns aspects of culture that ultimately may not be inventoried and put up for a UNESCO nomination. What aspects of culture will benefit or be affected negatively by being nominated is part of a discussion that will take place in the coming days.
The programme also includes case studies and discussions on defining ICH, stakeholder management, the process of inventorying and legal frameworks, among other topics. In a welcome speech, Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Patricia Lourens-Philip encouraged participants to ask each other for help and provide constructive feedback. She cited psychologist Bruce Tuckman in saying that groups must go through four stages: forming, storming, norming and performing.
The event is being hosted by the St. Maarten National Commission for UNESCO in coordination with the UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean. Participants in attendance hail from all the countries mentioned except Suriname and Aruba, which was scheduled to attend, but representatives could not make it. A number of trainers and observers from Jamaica, Belize, Honduras, Anguilla and the Netherlands are also part of the meetings.