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HomeNewsLocal NewsDepartment of Creative Economy Launches US $90,000+ project to develop ICH policy

Department of Creative Economy Launches US $90,000+ project to develop ICH policy


by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – In furthering efforts to protect, preserve and pass on intangible parts of the Federation’s cultural heritage, the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Secretariat – St. Kitts Living Heritage within the Department of Creative Economy has launched a project aimed at the development of Intangible Cultural Heritage policy.

The St. Kitts and Nevis UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage policy project is entitled “Safeguarding Saint Kitts and Nevis Intangible Cultural Heritage: developing a National Intangible Cultural Heritage Policy.” 

According to the ICH Secretariat, “the primary objective of this project is to develop a Nation’s Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Policy in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis to safeguard ICH within the Federation, recognise cultural traditions, protecting Tradition/Knowledge Bearers and Practitioners and their corresponding intellectual property rights, establishing ICH safeguarding guidelines, practices and procedures for State actors, as well as for developing guidelines for interventions in support of ICH Safeguarding.”

The Secretariat applied for international assistance from UNESCO to develop an ICH Policy and a legislative framework and was approved by UNESCO for US $90,000+ in funding.

How does the ICH Secretariat see this policy working?

Through the policy, the Secretariat will: 

  1. Nurture the development of social cohesion and foster national identity.
  2. Raise Awareness and foster an appreciation for St. Kitts and Nevis’s Intangible culture and heritage and the creative and cultural industries
  3. Develop national pride and increase Community, Group, and Individual (CGI) engagement in cultural activities.
  4. Creating rules and regulations protecting the intellectual property rights of Tradition/Knowledge Bearers to prevent infringement so they can earn income from their skill/knowledge.
  5. Develop guidelines on how public/private institutions engage Tradition/Knowledge Bearers for their products/services to ensure mutual benefits and sustainability.
  6. Protect the environment of local material resources necessary for producing Tradition/Knowledge Bearers products and performance accessories.
  7. Preserve traditional knowledge/performance art forms with video/audio/photograph documentation to use as educational material to transfer traditional practices to children/adults through workshops and school curriculum
  8. Engaging government ministries in fostering cultural development of ICH.
  9. Conducting Capacity Building Workshops to facilitate the training of cultural practitioners, government officials, NGOs, and stakeholders about implementing the ICH Policy.
  10. Ensuring that citizens, tourists, and visitors who experience St. Kitts and Nevis ICH respect and appreciate the Tradition Bearers who produce the ICH Elements.

In remarks by the ICH Focal Point – Nevis, Mr Patrick Howell, he explained the importance of intangible cultural heritage.

“Intangible cultural heritage, as opposed to tangible cultural heritage such as monuments, artefacts, buildings – intangible includes elements, such as language, oral traditions, music, dance, festivals and traditional crafts. In recent years, efforts to protect intangible cultural heritage has grown in importance, with UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, playing a key role. UNESCO has created a framework for identifying, safeguarding and promoting intangible cultural heritage around the world with the goal of preserving these valuable cultural traditions for future generations.”

Not only should they be preserved and promoted through the continuation of the practices but through copyright, intellectual property rights, laws, guidelines, legislation, and funding.

“One of the most important characteristics of intangible cultural heritage is its ability to provide communities with a sense of identity and continuity. Communities can maintain connection to their past and cultural moves by preserving and promoting intangible cultural heritage. This is especially important in light of rapid modernisation and globalisation, which can endanger traditional practices and knowledge. So far, the ICH Secretariat of St. Kitts and Nevis Living Heritage, as well as networks of committed citizens have been heavily involved in mitigating and preserving our heritage through documentation, transmission and revitalisation of cultural practices and traditions. The next step, however, is to develop policies that support the preservation and promotion of the Federation’s intangible cultural heritage, such as copyright, and intellectual property rights, laws, guidelines, and legislation, as well as potential funding and concessions.”

The UNESCO Consultant Mr Nigel Encalada, who was on the island for the launch, praised the Federation for being a trailblazer in the ICH movement.

“Thus far, St. Kitts and Nevis has been a leading nation in the region for the implementation of the Convention in terms of your community involvement in the creation of a national inventory and in terms of your international obligations for reporting on the conventions’ implementation, which is not a small undertaking at all. Having gone through those waymarkers over the past few years, you are now embarking on another important initiative. The development of a national policy for intangible cultural heritage. As you continue to trailblaze, we must know that no nation in the English-speaking Caribbean has yet to develop a policy and legislation dealing exclusively with ICH.”

Encalada said that St. Kitts and Nevis stands ready to be leaders in ICH endeavours on a global level.

“It’s important that St. Kitts and Nevis projects its technical power to the world in international contexts, and you do so at these meetings; international meetings provide you with a broader understanding of how the convention works. You bring that knowledge back to your country, and then you begin to massage the situation in your context. This is why the international framework is important. There is no reason now why St. Kitts and Nevis should not be front and centre. There would be opportunities for you to sit on the committee of the convention. There’ll be opportunities for you to become evaluators recommendations that go to the international level. All of these things become possible – to become normal facilitators. A country that you says is small can indeed punch above its weight simply by being present and being engaged.”

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Creative Economy, Ms Valencia Syder, spoke of the importance of observing and acknowledging the cultural heritage of other cultures as St. Kitts and Nevis becomes more integrated with people from other countries hoping to have a space for their culture here.

“An understanding of the tangible cultural heritage of other communities also goes a long way with progressing intercultural dialogue and encouraging mutual respect of other ways of life. UNESCO emphasises the importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself, but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next.” 

Permanent Secretary Syder continued, “I stand in full agreement with this as the socioeconomic benefits of this transmitted knowledge can be enjoyed by generations of [people], most of whom would have never interacted with each other otherwise. This practice of transmitting valuable cultural knowledge through generations can have enormous social and economic value for our community. Countless [people], whether they be visitors, locals, consumers – they pay exorbitant [amounts] to experience our authentic elements of what is unique to St. Kitts and Nevis culture. Just as they value our culture, so too should we value our culture, [and] capitalise on the authenticity of that heritage.”

UNESCO Secretary-General Ms Dorothy Warner said that work is being done to have our intangible cultural heritage internationally recognised.

“Basically, the project is really to develop an ICH policy for St. Kitts and Nevis. We heard talk about the items that were identified and documented – things like the Calabash, broom-making, the vernacular houses and the clay pottery in Nevis. Those are some of the items that we wish [for], and we hope to eventually have inscribed on the West Coast ICH list; that is the ultimate goal. To safeguard the ICH items and eventually to nominate some of them for ICH on that list.”

Apart from having the Federation’s ICH offerings recognised internationally, work must continue on the home front to ensure our intangible heritage is treasured here.

“On a local level, though, I must remark that, and I challenge every one of us to ensure that we begin to show respect, to preserve and to protect, and to give these items the prominence they deserve. If we want to have these internationally recognised, we must, first of all, practice these things in our backyard to make sure that we know what they are about and that we safeguard them because we want international attention and due regard that is associated with our Federation. We want international acclaim, which will show how privileged and proud we are to all the right to the knowledge of these things, and how bold we are in taking the many steps to value our history and treasure our heritage for successive generations.”

At the launch were displays of intangible culture, including folklore presentations of drumming, St. Peter’s actors and Monkey Hill Bull and local cuisine. Welcome remarks were given by the Director of Culture, Mr Pierre Liburd, and the vote of thanks was delivered by the Director of the Creative Economy, Ms Roberitine Webbe.


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