Masquerades, an example of intangible cultural heritage in St. Kitts-Nevis
Masquerades, an example of intangible cultural heritage in St. Kitts-Nevis

St. Kitts-Nevis embarks on initiative to safeguard intangible cultural heritage


BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Government officials representing a wide cross section of departments and ministries, as well as stakeholders, gathered at the Ministry of Finance Conference Room April 9 to begin discussions on safeguarding St. Kitts and Nevis’ Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH).

Marlene Phillips, research and documentation specialist at the St. Kitts Department of Culture, explained ICH as defined in the Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage. “The intangible cultural heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills—as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage,” she said. “This intangible cultural heritage transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus prompting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.”

Troy Mills, director of the Department of Culture, said that this is an opportune moment for St. Kitts-Nevis as it is important to safeguard the country’s intangible cultural heritage. “Our intangible cultural heritage, something that we perhaps take for granted, [is something we could lose] if we do not take care of it,” he said. “Others may claim it and we may lose it. Traditions are something we passed down; some of us do a fairly decent job in culinary arts perhaps. In terms of the folklore, we know that some of them have been dormant. At the Department of Culture, we are on a mission now to revive it.”

He referred to a pilot project introduced in primary schools in 2016 where elements of folklore were present in the Cayon, Sandy Point and Violet Petty primary schools, as well as the Charles E. Mills Secondary School. He explained that having elements of folklore in schools is part of the tradition of ensuring that “we keep those elements alive” as they are in the category of intangible cultural heritage.

The ICH project is a joint initiative with support from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Fund. Presently, Nigel Encalada, UNESCO consultant, is in the federation to provide technical assistance to SKN ICH Focal Points and to advise on the project proposals that were submitted. He is also expected to visit with ICH stakeholders during his April 9-12 mission.

The plan is to execute the SKN ICH project in three phases, with each phase running 12 months in a three-year period, 2018-2020. Phase I will focus on public awareness to sensitize the general public and stakeholders about ICH, in addition to human resource capacity building through training workshops that develop research, documentation and data processing skills. Phase II focuses on executing a pilot inventory on St. Kitts-Nevis folklore and preservation of folklore traditions through educational presentations in schools, and training workshops, while Phase III will focus on improving the capacity of SKN ICH institutions with policy development and ICH training in order to sustain future ICH safeguarding programmes.