15.02.2012 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Champions of Culture discussed ICH Safeguarding in Samoa

Exchange of Fine Mats in Savaii(c)UNESCO/N.Furutani

Windows of Opportunity for ICH Safeguarding in Samoa

Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Ratification Workshop was organised by the Samoan Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (MESC) from 14 to 15 February 2012 in Apia, Samoa.  As a follow up of the awareness raising workshop on the ICH safeguarding held in June, 2010, the Workshop aimed at enhancing the understanding of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in terms of its importance and benefits to Samoa and the process in which this Convention can be ratified.  The Workshop brought together some thirty experts including government officers from ministries concerned, academics, NGOs, ICH custodians in Samoa.

Hon. Magele Mauiliu Magele, Minister of the Education, Sports, and Culture, presenting examples of a wealth of Samoan ICH including oral traditions, performing arts, and handicrafts, pointed out a legal gap that exists at the moment in protecting ICH and traditional knowledge held by Samoan custodians. The Minister said, “A greater challenge on the safeguarding of ICH is the convincing of ICH custodians including ourselves that their knowledge and skills are very important to keeping a culture alive, and translating it into sustainable development opportunities.” He then encouraged the Workshop participants to consider themselves as “Champions of Culture” whose support was required for a National Consultation planned this year for consulting with a wider public on Samoa's ratification of the ICH Convention. 

Speaking on behalf of Dr Pongi, Director of the UNESCO Office in Samoa, Ms A. Takahashi provided information on the progress of the implementation of the ICH Convention in the Pacific.  She explained linkages among different UNESCO Conventions in culture and explained mutually reinforcing effects of ICH safeguarding measures.

The Workshop sessions were facilitated by Ms N. Aikawa who has extensive knowledge and experience in the ICH safeguarding and the ICH Convention.  The Workshop participants learned the key concepts and international mechanisms established by the ICH Convention.  The participants had particularly lively discussions on specific issues which included how the Convention treats sacred and secret ICH, its relation with customary laws, its compatibilities among different international treaties, ICH in public domain, de-contextualization of ICH, quantitative and qualitative measurement of ICH, and so forth.

The Workshop participants also discussed appropriate terminologies in Samoan language for the key concepts of the Convention, such as ICH, community, viability and safeguarding with a view to translating the entire text of the ICH Convention into Samoan language.  The Workshop participants agreed to assist MESC in moving the matter forward, assuming an advisory role for the ICH safeguarding in Samoa, taking advantage of their responsibilities at respective Ministries and their professional expertise.

In concluding the Workshop, Ms Galumalemana Nu’ufou Petaia, Chief Executive Officer of MESC, expressed her gratitude for great interest and support expressed by the Workshop participants or “Champions of Culture” as called by the Minister to the ICH safeguarding in Samoa.  She also reiterated the importance of forthcoming National Consultation for Samoa’s ratification of the ICH Convention.

This Workshop was the first activity held within the framework of a capacity building project for the ICH safeguarding in Asia and the Pacific funded under the UNESCO/Japanese Funds-in-Trust and attended by Mr Sasaki, JICA Representative in Samoa.

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