Head of Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture sits on international jury for intangible heritage
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Director of USP's Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture Professor Epeli Hau'ofa.
The Director of USP's Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture Professor Epeli Hau'ofa has been selected as a member of an international jury with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) tasked with recommending forms of cultural expression for the international distinction "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity".
UNESCO created this distinction following a resolution adopted during a general conference in November 1997. This title is awarded to cultural spaces or to forms of cultural expression of exceptional value, representing either a strong concentration of the intangible cultural heritage or a traditional cultural expression that is remarkable from the historical, artistic, ethnological, sociological, linguistic or literary point of view.
In accordance with regulations adopted by the UNESCO executive board in November 1998, member states, associate members, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations may submit to the Director-General of UNESCO, a candidature every two years, on the basis of which an international jury, composed of 18 members, to the DG a list of cultural spaces or forms of cultural expression to be proclaimed.
Professor Hau'ofa said he was pleased with his selection as this was an international recognition of the work of the Oceania Centre.
"To pick someone from USP to be a member of such an important jury is also helping lift the profile of the University," said Professor Hau'ofa.
"The Vice-Chancellor Professor Anthony Tarr has also declared the desire to strengthen Pacific Studies and Culture and this seems to be a step in the right direction."
Professor Hau'ofa will sit on the jury for the next four years.
UNESCO has already organised two Proclamations in 2001 and 2003, and 47 masterpieces from around the world, including the South Pacific have been proclaimed so far. Building upon the success of the previous exercises, UNESCO is now planning the third Proclamation, which will take place in July 2005.
Professor Hau'ofa said he looked forward to this new responsibility saying most of the work would involve going through the submissions from the various countries.
"This is a very positive initiative because there are many forms of cultural expressions worldwide which are on the verge of becoming extinct and this is an effort to save or conserve them, not only for these communities but for future generations as well," said Professor Hau'ofa.
In recent years, UNESCO's strategy has been based on two parallel and complimentary lines of action: on one hand awareness-raising through the adoption of the First Proclamation of Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001 and on the other hand safeguarding through the preliminary work for the Convention for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
So what is the Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity? This proclamation honours cultural spaces and forms of popular and traditional cultural expression. The oral and intangible heritage encompasses complex, broad and diverse forms of living expressions in constant evolution such as:
• oral traditions and expressions;
• the performing arts;
• traditional music; festive events, rites and social practices;
• knowledge and know-how concerning nature;
• cultural space: places where popular and traditional cultural activities occur in a concentrated manner.
This heritage, which is by nature fragile and perishable, plays a crucial role in the cultural identity of peoples around the world. Today, more than ever, it is threatened by the combined effects of cultural standardisation, armed conflict, the harmful consequences of mass tourism, industrialisation, rural exodus, migration and environmental deterioration.
The main objectives of the proclamations are to:
• raise awareness and to recognise the importance of oral and intangible heritage and the need to safeguard and realise it;
• facilitate the establishment of national inventories;
• encourage countries to take legal and administrative measures for the protection of their oral and intangible heritage;
• promote the participation of local traditional artists and bearers of traditional skills in identifying and revitalising the intangible heritage.
Some of the international masterpieces proclaimed so far include the Vanuatu Sand Drawings; lakalaka, dances and sung speeches from Tonga; the Oral and Graphic Expressions of the Wajapi in Brazil; the Royal Ballet of Cambodia; the Art of Guqin Music from China; the Tradition of Vedic Chanting from India; the Wayang Puppet Theatre of Indonesia and many more.
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