Wed | Oct 17, 2018

More help from the Japanese - Embassy of Japan in Kingston supports Jamaica's intangible cultural heritage

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams
Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna (left) listens as Bernard Jankee, director, ACIJ/Jamaica Memory Bank, giver her information on the exhibition highlighting Jamaica’s intangible cultural heritage.
Claire Reid of Denham Town, St Andrew dances on one leg at the opening of the ACIJ/Jamaica Memory' exhibition on Jamaica's intangible cultural heritage.
From left: David Brown, senior research fellow, and Bernard Jankee, director, ACIJ/JMB; Himalchuli Gurung, programme special in culture at UNESCO's Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean; and Hiromoto Oyama, counsellor at The Embassy of Jamaica at the opening of the ACIJ/Jamaica Memory' exhibition on Jamaica's intangible cultural heritage.

The Embassy of Japan in Jamaica is at the final stage of formalising that country's grant assistance to upgrade exhibition facilities at the Institute of Jamaica.

That announcement came recently from Hiromoto Oyama, counsellor at the Embassy of Japan, at the official opening of an exhibition on Jamaica's intangible cultural heritage (ICH) at the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank (ACIJ/JMB) building in downtown Kingston.

The exhibition, which runs until October, showcases many aspects of Jamaica's intangible cultural heritage, including the Maroons, Revivalism, Rastafarianism, Kumina, storytelling, and traditional craft.

This is in keeping with the institute's mandate to research, store and share information about the influence of African heritage and culture on Jamaica's contemporary culture.

Oyama, counsellor at the Embassy of Japan, congratulated the ACIJ/JMB for the successful launch of the exhibition, as he said he was very pleased to see the tangible results in a form of the exhibition.

Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner shortly after the opening, Oyama said money from the Japan Trust Fund at UNESCO was used to organise a series of workshops in Jamaica, Trinidad and Belize since December 2012.

The workshops were to give participants more expertise in the preservation of intangible cultural heritage. The fund was set up because Japan realised that the culture of many people around the world is "threatened by globalisation".

Along with other countries, Japan took a leading role in drafting and promoting the 2003 UNESCO Convention For the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. According to the convention, ICH, or living heritage, is the "practice, representation, expressions, knowledge, skills, as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts, and cultural spaces associated therewith, that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals, recognise as part of their cultural heritage ... ." To date, 22 cultural items are registered as World Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Oyama said the Embassy of Japan's thrust in the preservation of Jamaica's intangible cultural heritage is based on the need to promote national security and to enrich lives. Japan, he said, considers that culture is the most effective means to ensure long-lasting peace and enrichment of lives.


Enriching lives


According to Oyama, Jamaican culture, such as its music, dance, food, is a good example of how the culture of other people has enriched the lives of Japanese people.

He said Japan is committed to continue to work with Jamaica to preserve and promote its culture. "We want to maintain peace and security through culture. we want to continue to enjoy your unique culture because it's gonna enrich our lives".

Also speaking with The Sunday Gleaner was Himalchuli Gurung, programme specialist in culture at the UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office of the Caribbean. She said she was very pleased with the exhibition, which came out of the UNESCO project for safeguarding intangible culture heritage. It was funded by the Government of Japan and implemented by the Ministry of Youth and Culture through the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica/Jamaica Memory Bank.

Gurung said UNESCO is doing much capacity building on what ICH is, and that the Jamaica National Cultural Policy should be influenced by the outcome of this project. According to Gurung, UNESCO stands ready to provide technical assistance through the Japanese Government. "We hope when the national cultural policy of Jamaica is reviewed, the intangible aspect is well reflected in the policy document," said Gurung.