Friday, April 15, 2011

Sharing and networking on ICH in Asia and the Pacific region

Just finished listening to a presentation by Dr. Seong-Yong Park, who is the Executive Director of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific (ICHCAP), based in Korea. The presentation was entitled “Information sharing and networking on intangible cultural heritage in Asia and the Pacific region”

The mission of ICHCAP is to promote the implementation of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Asia and the Pacific region. The centre builds and strengthens networks of tradition bearers, experts, and relevant institutes in this field. It also establishes information systems and disseminates ICH information.

The goal of the centre is promote cultural diversity, and facilitate sustainable development through promotion of ICH.

Thoughout Asia and the Pacific, as the world undergoes dramatic transformation due to globalization and modernization, regional ICH faces devastation and destruction. Park spoke of how transmission of ICH is in danger – in part due to the aging of practitioners, and a decrease in apprentices, in spite of a respect for the tradition of apprenticeship.

In order to combat some of this, ICHCAP has as its primary functions the sharing of information, and the strengthening of ICH networks. In terms of information sharing, ICHCAP is working on a field survey project of ICH safeguarding efforts, collecting information on cultural policies, events, and inventories, and sharing info on legal protective measures from different jurisdictions. It promotes online databases and web-based archives, and is helping to restore and digitize ICH related materials under threat, working to digitize damaged collections in Mongolia, for example. It also undertakes publication projects – newsletters, translating ICH books into Korean, and recently publishing a book on ICH in Mongolian.

Network building is their other priority, and the organization brings together workers from different Asian and Pacific countries to train as ICH experts, with inventory making being one theme they work on.

The centre faces many regional challenges. It is time consuming to learn about the vast region they represent. There is a lack of policies and awareness of ICH, different socio-cultural environments, the complexity of coordinating across such a region, and a large workload with limited resources. That part, at least, sounds familiar!

In spite of this, Park spoke optimistically about the future of ICH in the region. He concluded quoting the section of the UNESCO Constitution which reads “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” Park suggested that safeguarding ICH represents a significant building block in cultural understanding, hopefully leading to the dissemination of a culture of peace.

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