Today, the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH), through the Institute for Social and Cultural Research, in partnership with cultural stakeholders released the Belize Living Heritage Website. The online portal is dedicated to promoting the cultural skills, traditions, and knowledge that are transmitted, continuously practiced and safeguarded in communities across Belize. Here is Duane Moody with a report.
Duane Moody, Reporting
The National Institute of Culture and History today launched the Belize Living Heritage website in an effort to safeguarding Belize’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage. It is being done in an effort to protect the cultural diversity of Belizean communities. It also contributes to social cohesion and encourages a sense of identity.
Sapna Budhrani, President, NICH
“The Institute for Social and Cultural Research and the National Institute of Culture and History have been actively curating and developing this site on behalf of our communities since September of 2019. And while the ISCR/NICH moderates the site, this dedicated portal will be accessible by members of different communities and will act as an avenue for all to share credible information as well as ongoing activities within each community related to the preservation of our living heritage. This is a start and I look forward to the continued development of positive networking amongst our people in the arts, culture and history.”
The website highlights grassroots work that provides access to an inventory of language, music, clothing, food and artistic pieces from the various cultures across the length and breadth of the country. Belize’s Living Heritage is defined as a repository for educational resources that have been developed.
Nigel Encalada, Director, Institute for Social & Cultural Research, NICH
“This work, in addition to the much longer tradition in Belize of preserving and conserving our Maya archeological heritage—and now recently our colonial build heritage—which in our terms we call tangible heritage is a step forward. It is now a focus not on the tangible heritage but now an equal focus on the intangible heritage of Belize. This work, of course in our tradition was undertaken by the Institute of Archeology and in 2011, the Institute for Social and Cultural Research was assigned the role of being the focal point agency for implementing the convention in Belize.”
Viewers may know about the Institute of Social and Cultural Research. That's the unit within the National Institute of Culture and History that labors diligently to preserve important elements of Belize's cultural heritage. They are the local historians who document and carry out social, cultural and anthropological research about important elements of the Belizean identity.
They are now looking to refine their methods of preservation with the launch of a new online presence called the Belize Living Heritage Website. It is contemplated as an electronic library of all the traditional teachings of the different ethnicities that make up the Belizean society. For several months now, the researchers have been documenting volumes of cultural heritage that were previously passed down only through word of mouth from one generation to the next.
The Institute publicly unveiled this new website at an event launch today, and 7News stopped by to get an understanding of all the work that was involved create this library of cultural heritage. Here's what one of the main personalities behind the initiative at the institute told us about the undertaking:
Selene Solis - Senior Research & Education Officer, ISCR "Today, we launched our Belize Living Heritage website. That's www.belizelivingheritage.org, and this website is envisioned and is a portal to highlight all the cultural practices, traditions, cultural knowledge and entire experiences that constitute culturally Belizean communities."
"What our cultural stakeholders told us is that we needed a dedicated portal where reputable, verified, credible information can be found that highlights the information, the knowledge that is existing, ongoing. That is being focused on and transmitted in Belizean communities, and that it is accessible to the wider Belizean community, and the global audiences. There is a lot going on in Belize cultural preservation, cultural safeguarding, and cultural transmission. community organizations are consistently involved in safeguarding their cultural practices and traditions, and ensuring the knowledge associated with that is transmitted to future generations. And they want that highlighted so that they have this information accessible to them so that it's not lost to the ages so that it's not lost with some of our elders, who might be passing on, and who might not be given the opportunity of transmitting that knowledge. That is the purpose of this website, to allow a portal for us to access that information, and to gather that information."
"We work very closely with cultural organizations, community-based organizations, and practitioners of living heritage. So, we go into their communities. They are the ones who identify the knowledge-bearers in their communities. If there's a specific cultural practice, like a specific [piece of] music, they identify the master musician of that music practice, if you will, and they tell us, this is the person that you need to speak to. This is the person that we need to record, because if we don't have access to this person, a wealth of our community's knowledge, experiences and history will be lost."
"A lot of the materials, the processed materials, the vetted materials that we've developed so far - and all will be made available on the Belize Living Heritage website. So, if you explore the resources section of the website, you'll find a lot of the posters, pamphlets, brochures, video documentaries and other materials we've developed so far. The inventory articles, which act as a sort of Wikipedia articles, brief some articles, also tell you about the specific cultural practices, traditions, and knowledge being featured there. If you would want access to let say the full length and breadth of content that we've collected over the years, because there's a bit of content - interviews, documented content that we've gathered, you'd need to visit the Institute for Social and Cultural Research and access our full collection at our offices in Belmopan. This just allows us to monitor and act as custodians, and to protect that information on behalf of the communities."