Nassau, The Bahamas – The Ministry of Education and Technical and Vocational Training has announced the results of a “significant cultural achievement” — the Bahamas’ request to be registered on the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Convention to safeguard the ICH Junkanoo.
The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is a UNESCO treaty adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in October, 2003.
The Ministry provided details of the process, the achievement and its significance to the country during a press briefing December 14, 2023 at its headquarters on University Drive.
The Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Education and Technical and Vocational Training; the Hon. Mario Bowleg, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture and H.E. Jamaal Rolle, Ambassador to UNESCO and Deidre Bevans, Secretary General, the Bahamas National Commission for UNESCO, presented remarks.
Senior officials from the ministries of Youth Sports and Culture and Education and Technical and Vocational Training, representatives of the Junkanoo community and members of the committee responsible for the nomination process were on hand for the event.
Mrs. Bevans gave an overview of the 2-year process of inscription.
“Our file was examined on December 5, 2023 in Kasane, Botswana. The ICH Committee adopted the decision to inscribe Junkanoo on the Representative List of Humanity of the ICH based on the Evaluation Body’s recommendation for inscription, as our file satisfied all 5 of the criteria necessary. The Committee is grateful for the opportunity provided to work on the first nomination for our country for inscription of the ICH List and its subsequent success.”
Minister Hanna Martin expressed how proud she was of this achievement.
“This was one of the proudest moments of my public life,” she said.
She acknowledged and thanked the members of the committee for their handiwork and commitment. “You will be remembered for all times as Bahamians, as cultural practitioners who worked. You have transported our people to another new level. We are grateful to you and we are proud of you.
“It was not an easy task; it was our own indigenous cultural practitioners who worked along with the Secretary General to cultivate a submission that was able to take us forward in Botswana, Africa,” she said.
Minister Hanna-Martin said UNESCO understood that this was the product of generations of sustained input, love, cultivation, respect, celebration and regard. I felt extremely proud because it assured us that we have an identity of who we are and what we are.”
She also warned of the need to be careful about the commercialization of Junkanoo.
“That was expressed specifically,” she said.
“We want those who have the carriage of it to continue, the trusteeship of it, to continue to give that respect and regard that those who came before us have had for this, craft, the expression, this manifestation, this soulful voice and physical presence that represents our people and harkens back to the early generations of people who found a survival space that was beautiful.
Be careful that that we are respectful that it does not became a purely commercial thing and that it remains a cultural expression.”
There are 145 countries that have items inscribed on the ICH List. The Bahamas became the 3rd Caribbean country to join the List. Grenada was subsequently added as the 4th Caribbean country to join the ICH List.