The 3rd Rising from the Depths Workshop: People, Time and the Sea
Workshop 3: People, Time and the Sea
10 November 2021 (10 am to 1 pm, UK)
Overview and Discussion Points
The third workshop of the Rising from the Depths (RftD) Network Workshop series focused on how creative industries and arts are both a manifestation of the intangible marine cultural heritage and a means to communicate the core values of heritage, while increasing awareness of its importance. Speakers from the RftD innovation projects from East Africa and the UK discussed the cultural expressions that, throughout their projects, showed the connections between the people, their environment, their heritage and their traditional knowledge. From the use of performing arts where traditional knowledge and regulatory systems are shared with the community, particularly youth and children, to the celebration of carnivals and festivals, where celebrations around the values of marine heritage are experienced by all community members, arts and creative industries are a crucial vehicle to educate and consolidate traditional marine values.
As a result, most of the projects evidenced how conventional approaches to awareness raising and research-oriented communication have failed to create effective impact. MCH in East Africa is a living resource and as such, it has to be shared through the very same communication means used and understood by the community. Overall, the workshop highlighted the methods used and the impacts caused in MCH awareness through community-led arts approaches and identified deficiencies in the application of national heritage policies in this regard.
Some of the primary findings and challenges identified across the presented projects throughout the three RftD workshops are related to the need to establish community-led governance and participatory approaches in the heritage process. Equally important is the need to integrate traditional heritage knowledge within the national legal frameworks, as well as establishing platforms for community representation in the decision-making procedures. Regarding the creative industries and the use of arts for the education, study and promotion of MCH values, some specific findings can be highlighted:
- Regarding the need to identify, share and communicate knowledge connected to MCH, it was clear that the different academic strategies of communication or the awareness raising methods used by different intergovernmental organizations or regional and national entities are not sufficient. In many cases they lack an in-depth study of the audiences they are targeting, and in many others a detailed comprehension of the different cultural manifestations and traditional practices connected to the MCH. The need to carry out regional wide MCH inventories with ecosystem and community-based approaches has been a running theme throughout this workshop series. Discussions highlighted the lack of specific topics related to heritage values that could empower young generations in the preservation of MCH within the formal education curricula, leading to a call for adaptative approaches that synthesise research, interpretation, preservation and dissemination by most of the projects. The use of popular music and dances, locally-led educational groups and committees, local languages and local heritage values in communication and awareness strategies are successful means of educating while empowering youth in knowledge preservation.
- The different projects showed how the younger generations are a key community for the survival of traditional values and approaches to MCH, which are rapidly changing due to urban, industrial and tourism development, and environmental pressures. Young generations and children reconnect with MCH community values through the celebration of festivals and carnivals where all members of the community participate in knowledge exchange, storytelling and performing arts. The publication of specific educative materials for schools, where MCH values based on traditional practices and knowledge are illustrated in the local language, was also shown as an effective means to educate the “site managers” of the future. It was clear that people living around heritage sites, valuing their traditions as a living heritage and producing heritage influenced by the historical relations of the community with their particular environment, are the first guardians of MCH and, therefore, are the ones that first have to be involved not only in its identification, study and preservation, but also in its enjoyment, dissemination and expressivity.
- Concerning the promotion and integration of MCH traditional arts, MCH dissemination methodologies and related creative industries within national policies, some of the projects evidenced that, even if the target countries create policies protecting the diversity of cultural expressions and are signatories of most of related regional and international Conventions, there is an important deficiency in the way these are implemented. Furthermore, the lack of specific monitoring mechanisms and awareness among decision-makers results in the under prioritization of community-led cultural manifestations. Heritage preservation policies are mainly linked to “aggressive” tourism strategies instead of understanding heritage as something inherent to the community´s identity, rooted in their space from their past, generating further cultural expressions, and justifying their very same existence and way of communicating. Furthermore, a consistent focus on tourism as the primary capital of cultural heritage is limiting the opportunity for more diverse and community-centric cultural capital measurements and indicators.
- Overall, the projects highlighted the importance of having specific spaces to present, celebrate and communicate MCH knowledge and values. These spaces can be temporal manifestations that, organized on a regular basis, gather the community around shared values, or permanent tangible infrastructures, like eco-museums or interpretation centres, where the community co-creates the narratives and heritage interpretation presented to a wider audience. Although the subject of MCH presentation and museums might well be a topic to be further discussed in future workshops, it was already clear that the inherited traditional western concept of museums and the presentation of MCH as something static and objectivized by the external expert’s eyes has failed to engage communities and express the whole spectrum of their MCH values. This has also caused a perception that MCH can be neglected in national policies and development practices as it is, first, not known and understood and, second, has not been successfully communicated, valued and shared by the same community.
RftD network projects have clearly shown innovative ways of producing a diversity of cultural expressions while promoting the core values of MCH, raising awareness of the need for their preservation and its importance within the community.
Elgidius Ichumbaki presenting the team behind Musicalizing Marine Cultural Heritage
At the end of these first three RftD workshop is becomes clear that any strategy aiming at achieving sustainable economic, social and ecological development needs to be participatory and inclusive. The community, culture and the environment are the main drivers and enablers of sustainability. It is through communities’ heritage, culture and traditional knowledge that development can be boosted, maintaining a sense of belonging, identity and knowledge transfer.
The discussions in Workshop 3 have pointed to the use of music, dance, festivals and performing manifestations as successful means for community intergenerational involvement and knowledge transfer. The RftD network’s projects have increased knowledge and awareness of the importance of MCH amongst local communities as well as capturing the diversity of activities related to MCH. Paraphrasing Solange Macamo in her final concluding remarks to the workshop, the network has empowered local experts and communities the potential of their MCH so they can demand a change in how heritage has been traditionally approached from policy-makers and decision-makers.
The sea is a major unifying force around local communities in the Western Indian Ocean. The knowledge, values and enjoyment of MCH transcends national boundaries and unities coastal communities. Preserving and recognising the different cultural expressions around this heritage is not only necessary for understanding MCH, but is key if we are to transform research and management strategies towards achieving communities’ well-being, and sustainable development.
Many challenges remain. Among them are the consolidation of these inclusive and participatory approaches within academia in the region and MCH related disciplines, as well as bringing these findings to governments and authorities so they can effectively influence change in policies and practices. Of particular importance, is the ability to measure, monitor and sustain community engagement with the MCH. As we continue to source projects from a community-centred methodology, more data will be collected regarding the socio-ecological and socio-cultural indicators necessary for long-term implementation within regional management policies and frameworks. The RftD network projects are identifying innovative models to know, research and utilize MCH while achieving awareness, community engagement and management change. Future steps need to consolidate this challenge-led research approach within academia as well as partner with concerned stakeholders in the region to propose policy modifications in line with the internationally agreed sustainable development goals.
We extend our gratitude to the network collaborators for their excellent contributions to the presentations and discussions in our first workshop series. A second series of workshops will be organized in the first semester of 2022 on crosscutting subjects related, among others, to MCH national legal frameworks, international aid mechanisms regarding MCH, infrastructure development works, intangible marine heritage and MCH narratives and museums.