UNESCO warns time running out for Sri Lanka’s prized heritage | Daily News


UNESCO warns time running out for Sri Lanka’s prized heritage

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) expressed its interest to help secure Sri Lanka’s Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) on September 26, while issuing a warning that Sri Lanka is fast losing the prized practices as they ‘are fading away rapidly.’

“Sri Lanka’s Intangible Cultural Heritage has extraordinary value. With all your unique rites and traditions, performing arts, weaving practices and much more, you are sitting on a gold mine and possibilities are endless,” said Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka on September 26.

Visiting Director Falt was addressing a meeting chaired by Industry, Commerce, Resettlement of Protracted Displaced Persons, Cooperative Development, Skills Development and Vocational Training Minister Rishad Bathiudeen who was joined by Himali Jinadasa, UNESCO Focal Point - Sri Lanka, Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission Director General R.D.S. Kumararatne, Vocational Technology University Director General Nilmini Diyabedanage and National Craft Council Chairman Heshani Bogollagama.

“Aside from world heritage sites, the ICH practices here are not fully known and promoted. Sri Lanka itself has hundreds of years of traditions,” said Director Falt adding that “many of these traditions are fading and sadly, we don’t even know all of them.”

“A major mapping exercise of Lankan ICH practices is needed, followed by field mapping of all intangible practice locations and traditions here. Thereafter, ICH practices have to be inventoried, ecosystems to be identified and promoted and economic livelihoods of the communities to be transformed. What is important is that the window for securing ICH practices here is very short,” Falt said.

He added that the UNESCO would provide funding for Sri Lanka in the same way it works in West Bengal, and ensure that tourists visit these heritage locations since tourism is an economic force in Sri Lanka.

Minister Bathiudeen welcomed Director Falt’s suggestions. “I welcome UNESCO’s assistance which is encouraging,” he said and added: “Two-hundred and fifty villages had been registered as ‘craft villages’ in Sri Lanka. Thirty thousand craftsmen have also been registered under my Ministry. We need to perform a National Crafts Mapping, but we do not have the expertise. Each province has its own arts and craft traditions, but due to the lack of brand identity for them, our traditional craftsmen in these provinces do not have sufficient income. In this background, I welcome UNESCO’s assistance which is encouraging. There is no proper mechanism to safeguard many well-known local art and craft traditions such as the Kandy Pageant. The TVET mechanism, under my Ministry, would develop a programme to sustain these practices. We aim to identify specific areas such as drumming and regional dance styles so that an inventory could be set up.”


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