The Daily Herald writes that the fiveday United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) series of workshops focused on preserving Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) concluded Friday, September 12, at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort after a series of lectures, discussions and fieldtrips. The project concerned, currently being implemented, 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).”
Representatives of various islands are at different stages of the process of working towards the safeguarding of ICH, but the general feedback of the workshops seemed to be that the workshops were useful, insightful and included interesting debates and examples. Besides figuring out what could be seen as particular examples of “intangible” cultural heritage that are suitable for safeguarding under the ICH convention; legal aspects, definitions, policies, the process of inventorying and nomination, as well as strategic tools for the process were discussed.
Some representatives had a defined idea of what ICH was, and mainly benefitted from learning about these procedural aspects. Others said that the meetings mainly showed them a clearer perspective on ICH itself; for example, fishing boats are not ICH, but the craftsmanship in making them is. A few participants commented that they were somewhat surprised and satisfied with the “bottom up” approach by UNESCO, given the strong focus on community involvement in the decision- making process. They were also encouraged to consider how nomination might affect any cultural practices, for example because of higher exposure.
The networking aspect as well as being able to hear about real-life examples, and hearing about each other’s progress first-hand also seemed to be appreciated. Curaçao and Bonaire left good impressions in particular, in terms of how much their heritage has already been defined in general, while St. Maarten left an impression of having made much progress within this project’s scope.
St. Eustatius has also made progress, which included gaining governmental acknowledgement. Saba delegates, who were newer to the project in general, said that they were inspired as to what can be done and that they had a clear vision of the work ahead of them.
The meeting featured participants from Bonaire, Curaçao, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten and Saba. Although the project also includes Aruba and Suriname, these were not present. A number of trainers and observers from Jamaica, Belize, Honduras, Anguilla and the Netherlands also took part. Certificates were awarded to all participants, signed by the secretary of the convention based in Paris. Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Patricia Lourens-Philip, who was present at the meeting’s conclusion, said she hoped that the skills and the competencies gained during the workshop were “things that you can take back now to your country, or to your island, and also demonstrate or implement,” adding that organisers had “done a fantastic job.”
The event was hosted by the St. Maarten National Commission for UNESCO in coordination with the UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean. Off-island delegates return today.