Team St. Maarten attends UNESCO Workshop on Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention

On April 16 ‘Team St. Maarten’ consisting of Melanie Choisy, Clara Reyes, Marcellia Henry and Neville York travelled to Aruba to attend a workshop on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention. 

The three main goals of the workshop were:

1. To make sustainable, concrete cooperative agreements referencing the implementation of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the areas of:

– Establishing knowledge networks

– Establishing one or more inventories

2. To make an action plan on how to realize the agreements made;

3. To draft a capacity building program for the Caribbean region of the Kingdom and Suriname, financed by UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund which was made possible through the financial contribution of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Netherlands.

The Country report of St. Maarten started with a unique introduction of Clara Reyes in song touching on all the information that has been passed on to her as an example of how fragile our precious intangible heritage is resting in the soul and body of usually one person in the community and the need for that knowledge to be imparted and made accessible to the general public in order for it to continue surviving.

This approach and style drew a huge round of applause. At the end of her introduction Clara smoothly transitioned into introducing Melanie Choisy who captured the minds and hearts of the audience with her in depth knowledge and youth on the subject of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Melanie explained in that St. Maarten Intangible Cultural Heritage was much alive; however been threatened by the rapid growth and tourism development on the island. She showed examples of photos of practitioners performing the Porum Dance, Steel Pan, String Band Music, Culinary Arts, and Making of Fish Pots etc.

A number of activities were mentioned such as the launching of the "Decade of Revitalizing our Natural and Cultural Heritage 2013-2023" with the Cultural Calendar, Diamond 26 Run for Freedom, DOW’s Pan in Paradise, and the Commemorative walk for the Treaty of Concordia, Celebrating St. Maarten’s Traditions in summer camp of 2012 etc.

She further pointed out that laws ought to be enacted to protect and safeguard the Intangible Cultural Heritage and not the contrary in reference to serenading where the laws have threatened to kill such an important part of our heritage of going house to house and door to door serenading during the Christmas season.

The use of modern technology was also brought forward to illustrate the need to engage the youth however not necessarily through the conventional traditional ways and means but to use modern technology such as face book, twitter, black berry messenger, instant messaging, blogs, etc. which are all free to interface tradition with modernity and the youth.

In closing she pointed out to all persons attending not to be afraid of change because Culture is always evolving. "So, from a youth perspective, I’d like to put a stop to the lamenting of those who say "the dance hall music is overshadowing the calypso so that’s why the art form is dying in our country". NO! We are living in a globalized world inundated with flashy images causing the youth to have a very short attention span for things that they may not consider fun or interesting from the offset. We need to be able to communicate with the youth in their own language in order to alter their perspectives and attitudes. We need to be able to pick these eggs up off of our backs and put them in a place for the future benefit of our countries". She was referring to the SANKOFA BIRD

The audience had many questions for her at the end of her presentation which she was able to answer and York, Henry and Reyes intervened and assisted when the questions went beyond her being able to answer. This is a clear example and the vision Minister of Culture Hon. Silveria Jacobs wants implemented throughout the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs.

In an invited comment after hearing how well received St. Maarten Report was received at the workshop in Aruba, Minister Jacobs with a very content smile said: "St. Maarten and the Ministry is on the right track by supporting the youth and making them active participants of the future. After all they are our future".

To top the entire presentation off St. Maarten had its own Camera man to ensure what took place in Aruba will be shared with the St. Maarten community at home thanks to Dwight Barran who currently resides in Aruba.

Minister Jacobs alluded that it is all about engaging persons of St. Maarten home and abroad who have St. Maarten at heart and harnessing our energies and talents in a positive direction in the benefit of country".

PHOTO CUTLINE: Team St. Maarten at the UNESCO Workshop in Aruba.