Culture Life News

Safeguarding PNG’s cultural heritage

Recently, two members of SIL-PNG attended a Community-Based Inventorying Workshop in Goroka, the provincial capital of the Eastern Highlands Province. The workshop was sponsored by UNESCO and the National Cultural Commission (NCC) of Papua New Guinea. In 2003, UNESCO initiated the Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage, with the aim of registering and, where necessary, safeguarding the cultural traditions of the world.

The PNG office of UNESCO, in cooperation with the NCC, is now undertaking a cultural mapping project for the whole country of PNG. The first step is “community-based inventorying,” basic ethnographic fieldwork and documentation of PNG’s cultural traditions. This information will be collated into a “cultural map” of PNG. Provincial and other governmental representative were invited to attend the Goroka workshop to learn the fieldwork and documentation methodology being developed and pilot-tested by PNG UNESCO and the NCC.

The methods taught include ethnographic interview, audio and video recording, photography, mapping, and participatory research activities. Those participants will then bring the training back to their home constituencies, in preparation for more inventorying projects in local communities. The collected data will be archived in a national database. Inventoried traditions will be eligible for registry on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

SIL-PNG was one of the only nongovernmental organisations represented at the workshop. Workshop facilitators asked the SIL-PNG members to translate some of the course materials into Tok Pisin. They also invited SIL PNG to continue partnering with UNESCO in the translation of inventorying documents into Tok Pisin and local vernaculars.

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