Representatives from around the Pacific gathered at the Tonga National Cultural Centre in Tofoa today for a two-day conference on the protection of intangible cultural traditions of Pacific peoples.
The Sub-Regional Network Meeting on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in the Pacific, taking place 29 - 30 March, aims to advance action on the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The meeting includes participants from Tonga, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu - countries that have either signed or ratified the Convention, as well as Cook Islands and Kiribati, which have indicated intent to sign.
Tonga signed the Convention in December 2009, which was then brought into force in April 2010.
The Honourable Minister of Education, Women's Affairs and Culture and President of the UNESCO National Commission for Tonga, Dr ‘Ana Taufe'ulungaki gave the keynote address, calling for the preservation of ICH for future generations.
"Intangible cultural heritage - or living heritage ... is the mainspring of humanity's cultural diversity and its maintenance guarantees continuing creativity," she told the audience.
"If we are to make a meaningful contribution to this workshop, then one of our primary purposes is to reclaim not only Pacific knowledge and values for our Pacific peoples and their communities, but the processes and the vehicles in which they are transmitted."
Dr Taufe'ulungaki said intangible culture such as songs, music, drama, skills and crafts can only be transmitted through people or "human treasures".
She urged Government and communities to promote awareness of ICH through public education and training programmes.
The Executive Director of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific (ICHCAP) Dr Seong-Yong Park made opening remarks, urging a strategic action plan for ICH safeguarding in the region.
"I believe this meeting will facilitate us to make cooperative efforts in safeguarding ICH and explore possible measures to protect ICH in the region, including multinational nominations," he said.
Also present at the opening ceremony from the Tonga Traditions Committee was Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, Food and Fisheries Lord Vaea, Programme Specialist for Culture, UNESCO Office for the Pacific States in Apia Ms Akatsuki Takahashi, convenor of the PAO Professor Amareswar Galla, as well as other local and international participants.
The meeting is jointly sponsored and organised by UNESCO Apia, ICHCAP, UNESCO National Commission for Tonga and the Ministry of Education, Women Affairs and Culture.