by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts-Nevis (WINN) – Can you make palm tree brooms? Mauby? Utensils out of calabash? Any knowledge of local herbs and what they are good for?
Those skills form part of what is described as our Intangible Cultural Heritage and local officials are making moves to preserve those skills for posterity with the launch of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Seminar, themed “Safeguarding St Kitts and Nevis Intangible Cultural Heritage Treasure”
“It now therefore gives me great pleasure as the Minister with responsibility for culture to declare this Intangible Cultural Heritage Seminar under the theme Safeguarding St. Kitts and Nevis Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Treasure officially open.”
Minister with Responsibility for Culture et al. Jonel Powell at the first ICH Seminar.
With this public display and exercise in the preservation of the ‘intangible culture’ of St. Kitts and Nevis, what exactly is being done?
Marlene Philipps Department of Culture Research and Documentation Specialist and ICH point person in St. Kitts spoke about some aspects of the preservation efforts which include Audio visual interviews documentation from elders or “knowledge bearers” as they have been dubbed within the community who have the “know how.”
Aspects of our culture actively being preserved included, traditional palm tree brooms, the making of mauby, calabash utensil making, red clay pot making, vernacular house building, and local medicinal herbs/plants knowledge. Not forgetting the inclusion of one of the oldest forms of cultural preservation techniques, oral storytelling.
Documentation Specialist in the Nevis Cultural Development Foundation (NCDF) and Nevis ICH point person Patrick Howell told the story of Nevis
The main point of the seminar was the need to not only remember and document dying aspects of our culture but to find ways to preserve the history and one way seems to be within the schools and youth.
Naturally, in preservation and re-education, resources are necessary to start and keep the efforts alive, and through the grant received from UNESCO of some US$100,000, a start can be made, which include the necessary training of personnel in the documentation of information.
Dorothy Warner UNESCO Secretary General to St. Kitts and Nevis in her remarks.
The ICH Pilot Project, which is reportedly the first of its kind in the english speaking Caribbean is a two year initiative in this first instance and the from signing the UNESCO convention for the preservation of intangible culture some five years ago to May 2019 UNESCO exercise and training and then receiving the grant, this the seminar is another step in securing a more solid cultural foundation.