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SIL Arts Consultant Sparks Crucial Intergenerational Dialogue
One South Asian ethnolinguistic community faced a breakdown of the ways they passed on their unique knowledge, skills and values. Because of a shift toward national education, children no longer worked the fields during the day or sat with elders in the evenings, where transmission of cultural knowledge usually took place. With this shift, a generation had grown into young adults who had only tenuous connections to previous generations.
In response to this loss, the community invited SIL Arts Consultant Mary Beth Saurman to contribute to a participatory workshop, where the generations came together and discussed what traditions they valued and what was slipping away from them. Saurman helped guide discussions between older and younger adults and plan how they would actively pass on their valuable cultural wisdom and art forms.
One solution was to open up opportunities for older expert musicians and artists to teach classes about their art forms and knowledge. The community also produced books and reading materials about creative processes and cultural values. They developed a new transmission process within the national education system that had initially contributed to the communication breakdown.
SIL Expertise in World Arts Sought by UNESCO
In 2010, SIL became an accredited NGO with UNESCO in the implementation of its 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). As such, we are available to provide advisory services to the ICH Committee, or to help countries at national level to research for and prepare nominations for ICH status. UNESCO broadly defines ICH as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, and the knowledge/skills to produce traditional crafts. All of these living expressions are very much the focus of SIL arts consultants, and each year we send a representative to the global Committee meeting of member nations. The most recent meeting was held in Paris, December 2012, and was attended by Julie Taylor (Anthropology and Arts Coordinator for Africa Focused Language Program Services, above). Of course no trip to Paris would be complete without a quick visit to the National Academy of Music….