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Japan, UNESCO support culture at Maroon celebration

Published:Thursday | June 25, 2015 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams
Charles Town Maroon drummers and dancers perform at the seventh annual Charles Town International Maroon Conference on Sunday.


THE THEME of this year's seventh annual International Charles Town Maroon conference, held June 20 to 23, at Charles Town, Portland, was 'Maroons, Indigenous People and Indigeneity'.

And to support the conference and its theme, UNESCO and the Embassy of Japan were represented.

Robert Parua, officer in charge/programme specialist for education and interim officer for culture at UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean, said the support of UNESCO for the conference is within the framework of the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, such as the Maroons of Jamaica.

"UNESCO is strongly committed to advancing the cultures and rights of the indigenous peoples of the world," Parua said, "I'm pleased to note that the theme of the conference fits within the mandate of UNESCO as a cultural agency of the United Nations."

In commending the Maroon community in its effort to preserve and promote indigenous cultural and heritage values, Parua said, "UNESCO is convinced that no development can be sustained without a strong culture component." In essence, development has to be centred on the empowerment of indigenous people.

three-pronged approach

To get culture to be a part of development processes and strategies, Parua, who is an indigenous person from Papua New Guinea, said UNESCO has adopted a three-pronged approach. It is spearheading worldwide advocacy for culture and development, engaging the international community to set clear policies and legal frameworks, and working on the ground to support governments and local stakeholders.

Parua also thanked the Japanese government for financially supporting and promoting UNESCO's cultural programmes.

In addressing the gathering, Hiromoto Oyama, counsellor at the Embassy of Japan, who spoke on behalf of Ambassador Masanori Nakano, said the more he learns about the Maroons, the more he finds similarities between their story and the story of his people of northern Japan. He went on to give a brief history of their struggle and eventual triumph.

In wishing Jamaica success in its attempt to get the Blue and John Mountains National Park inscribed as a world heritage site, Oyama said the Embassy of Japan will continue to work with the Jamaican people. He has been to the Blue Mountains five times already, he said.

After their address, Parua and Oyama were each presented with a bench drum by Colonel Frank Lumsden, chief of the Charles Town Maroons. The bench drum, made in Charles Town by Barlow Whyte, is a third-place winner in the 2014 UNESCO Award for Excellence for Handicrafts in the Caribbean.