Brunei told to start inventorying intangible heritage

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

BRUNEI was urged to begin inventorying its intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in order to be able to nominate them for protection and recognition at the international level.

Brunei ratified the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the ICH in November 2011, but has yet to make any nominations to the list under the convention.

“Inventorying intangible heritage is one of the few obligations of state parties under the convention. And this needs to be done before any nominations can be made to the lists of the convention,” Harriet Deacon, a UNESCO consultant facilitator said yesterday.

“One doesn’t have to finish an inventory because an inventory is always in process and intangible heritage changes over time. But it is important to start your inventory and to inventory those elements which you plan to nominate to the lists of the convention.”

Some 144 states have ratified the convention, which currently has 267 elements of intangible culture inscribed on its lists.

Deacon shared that in the past, state parties nominated as many as 20 elements and “overloaded” the lists, prompting a new rule whereby countries were limited to one nomination.

“Brunei having, at the moment, no elements already on the list will be on top of the pile, in terms of its nominations being considered because those state parties with no inscriptions on the list automatically get favoured in terms of the order in which nominations are picked,” she said.

ICH referred to “practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills including instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated with the communities, groups and individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage”.

“Our traditional food like ambuyat is our tangible heritage, and the technique and process to make ambuyat is the ICH,” Hjh Norsham Hj Yahya, director of Culture and Arts Section said as an example.

The Sultanate has already established a national committee dedicated to the convention, comprising government and non-government agencies as well as community groups.

“I think that Brunei is already quite far along the track to prioritising intangible heritage by having established already a working committee for ICH and you’re already considering the legislation and policy issues on ICH… So you’re already very far along that track to implementing this convention,” Deacon said.

Deacon and her colleague Sajida Haider Vandal were facilitating a four-day workshop to build capacity among relevant local personnel on the implementation of the convention. The workshop was officially opened yesterday at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports in Berakas.

Opening the workshop, Acting Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Datin Paduka Hjh Adina Othman stressed the importance of safeguarding ICH, pointing to disappearing trades such as brass smithing, due to globalisation and advancements in ICT.

“Intangible culture is an endless fusion of years of traditions and social interactions between people and is a reflection of humanity’s socio-cultural development. It is a challenge for all of us to protect the cultural practices of our forefathers, which have been entrusted to us,” the acting minister said.

“This is a challenge which we must all rise up to.”

The Brunei Times

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