St. Maarten delegation attends UNESCO conference in Curaçao

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PHILIPSBURG – Representatives from St. Maarten participated in United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s third joint island training on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) on May 17-20, in Willemstad, Curaçao.

The delegation consisted of Secretary General of St. Maarten National Commission (NatCom) for UNESCO Marcellia Henry, Policy Advisor for the Department of Culture Sharine Allamby-Duncan, and Youth Representative of St. Maarten Ralph Cantave.

The conference theme: “Strengthening the capacities of Suriname and Dutch Caribbean islands for implementing the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage” was coordinated by the NatCom for Curaçao, and the Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean in Jamaica, and attracted over thirty attendees.

This ranged from representatives from the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) to the other Dutch Caribbean islands including Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, St. Eustatius, Saba and Suriname. Each island sent a delegation of experts in the fields of cultural heritage and management, education, anthropology, archeology, community, policy and youth affairs.

The four-day long workshop was formally opened with a message from Culture Minister of Curaçao Irene Dick, and involved numerous video presentations on intangible heritage elements in urgent need of safeguarding by the different islands. UNESCO facilitator on the ICH Convention Harriet Deacon, underscored the importance of safeguarding as per the Convention and organized a simulated ICH exercise where two groups of participants were assigned various roles, and debated on which cultural elements needed to be safeguarded as their characters would in a real world situation.

In addition, conference participants went to the National Archeological-Anthropological Memory Management (NAAM) in Curaçao where a panel discussion was held with Government and NGO officers and specific Curaçaolenean ICH elements were highlighted and discussed.

During the closing of the conference, attendees engaged in an interactive ICH memory game and were given a warm farewell through a cultural song and dance display by a local serenade group. “This training was an overwhelmingly rich learning and cultural experience and we are extremely confident in moving forward with the safeguarding of St. Maarten’s ICH elements,” expressed the St. Maarten delegation.

For further information, contact St. Maarten NatCom for UNESCO via henrymarcellia@gmail.com and the Department of Culture via culturedepartmentofsxcm@gmail.com.