by Curlan Campbell
- UNESCO approved funding of US$99,862 for the project ‘Proud of my Heritage: transmission and safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage in Grenada through inventorying and education initiatives’ in 2020
- No official statement as yet by government
- Project expected to be launched as early as February of this year
Grenadian historian and archivist John Angus Martin agrees that properly documenting and incorporating intangible heritage within the education system should be made a priority if Grenada is to preserve its intangible cultural heritage for future generations.
His statement came in light of the reality that as the world becomes increasingly homogenised, Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) elements are vulnerable to being lost or forgotten.
Martin was part of a panel including heritage conservationist Michael Jessamy, educator Marlene Neptune and radio personality Godfrey Augustine, host of a television programme called Oui Culture, who came together to discuss the topic ‘Issues Threatening the Destruction of Grenada’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.’
Under the UNESCO’s 1972 World Heritage Convention, they categorise cultural heritage as the monuments, sites, and groups of buildings with universal value as determined through historical, artistic, scientific, aesthetic, or ethnological or anthropological lenses. Later, cultural heritage grew to include collections of objects and then expanded through the differentiation between tangible and intangible cultural heritage. However, the Convention for Safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage in 2003, delineated the difference between tangible and intangible by establishing that in contrast to traditionally recognised tangible cultural heritage, ICH is “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills handed down from generation to generation.”
“Culture changes and we are influenced from outside and sometimes it happens really quickly and it then strikes us that we are losing our Intangible Cultural Heritage because we are not able to incorporate or hold on to some of those things that we treasure. So I think the first thing that we need to do is to record and to start writing and sharing those things by bringing them into the lesson plans that we have in schools,” Martin said.
The author of “A-Z of Grenada Heritage”, Martin indicated his disappointment that his book has not been used within the school system. “I remember trying to get it within the school system and I was never able to do that, therefore I feel frustrated having worked in the [Grenada National] museum. We have a set of lesson plans that we did for Amerindian heritage and we need to get that into the school system so that some of that stuff becomes part of regular educational exchange; and we need to do that for culture, we need to do that for big drum dance, Shakespeare mas, Vieux Corps; just name it. I think all of these things need to become embedded in our educational system.”
Jessamy agrees with this approach to preserving Grenada’s intangible cultural heritage, and believes it is time that guidelines laid out in the various UNESCO conventions that Grenada is a signatory to — The World Heritage Convention in August 1998, the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, 2001 and Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2003 — are vigorously enforced. “Whether tangible or intangible we have to accede to those conventions and once we do that, then we are going somewhere, but you can’t say that you sign on to a convention and not enforce it.”
Neptune believes that intangible cultural heritage must apply to its community, and continuously transmitted from one generation to another, or face the reality now confronting the island which continues to lose much of its identity. She said the residual effects after years of not properly teaching the next generation of young people about various aspects of their cultural heritage has created a disconnect for students wishing to learn. “For young people now, it poses a challenge because very often they cannot identify with many of the things we are speaking about and so they do not often accept it or understand it because they haven’t lived it.”
Augustine is of the view that various aspect of Grenada’s intangible culture is not dead but the issue is that custodians of culture in Grenada are not being given a platform to impart their knowledge to the younger generation. “It is very much there. It is not lost, but I think the problem is that there isn’t a platform or an avenue for the people who still have a lot of information to express and display. Now we are supposed to have a Cultural Foundation, but what are they doing to create that avenue or platform for people to express and share all of these wonderful experiences?”
In October 2020, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage reported that they approved funding of US$99,862 for the project ‘Proud of my Heritage: transmission and safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage in Grenada through inventorying and education initiatives.’ Proud of my Heritage is the name of the educational programme for children, which is developed to raise awareness of intangible cultural heritage in Grenada. According to the mandates of the programme, the participating school community will be involved in inventorying exercises and a pilot Living Heritage Integration Programme will be integrated into the school curriculum. While no official statement has been made as yet by the government, reports are that the project is expected to be launched as early as February of this year.