Nathaly C. PintoAlumnus
Cultural Heritage Survival: is cultural heritage protection possible though ancestral knowledge re-mediation?
What is this project about?
“Society has entered an age of memory lost”, historian and author E. J. Hobsbawm once said, and I agree with him. It seams that, due to the rapid social changes and development of technology, we -the people from the present, are facing dissolution with our past life and cultural heritage. If this would happen, invaluable factors in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization, intercultural dialogue, and mutual respect for other ways of life, would be lost. More over, we would become a broken society; like a person suffering from Alzheimer, social groups would start facing problems with memory attached to problems of thinking and behavior. This is why protecting cultural heritage is imperative, and unlike Alzheimer, I believe society’s memory lost can be prevented and fixed. But for solving the problematic of people’s alienation towards culture, I consider we will have to go beyond what we can see, focusing in the knowledge that is behind cultural heritage first, and then, trying to find suitable material representations that people in the present could understand and relate to. What I recognize now is that in order to protect cultural heritage, it has to be updated or modernized; I recognize that the valuable ancestral information is whathas to be preserved and the material representations is what could change, therefore the key for a society maintaining its identity and continuity through times, relies in the re-mediation of its immaterial culture heritage. My research will focus precisely on that matter.
Some key elements
To begin with, when I talk about cultural heritageis important to note that two key components of cultural heritage can be spotted: the material and the immaterial part. While the material has to do the physical or tangible of cultural heritage (archaeology, art, movable objects, architecture and landscape), the immaterial relates to the knowledge, skills and values that constitute a culture essence. Immaterial culture heritage actually involves all the original knowledge of practices as well as the know-how and expertise that is behind the material representations of cultural heritage. For instance, in the preparation of a traditional dish, beyond the tangible meal, there is “a whole set of knowledge and skills concerning the foodstuff to be chosen, their classification and taxonomy, their nutritional value, their preparation and transformation, their effects on the human body as well as the symbols associated with them in relation to myths or to oral traditions” (Cultural Heritage & Local Development, page 9). This means that immaterial cultural heritage is the content behind cultural expressions, and thus, where the actual wealth of a society culture relies.
However, material and immaterial heritage are closely allied in a symbiotic relation: knowledge, information, and spiritual systems, could not pass through generations if they wouldn’t take at some point a sensible form – oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, or traditional crafts. But, tangible heritage only reaches full significance when supported by knowledge and values that give meaning to its existence. To this extend, no content is total without a form, and form doesn’t make sense without content, but in order for content to be fully appreciated, its structure, arrangement and exposition have to be recognizable and practicable to it’s public. I believe that when talking about people’s alienation towards culture and a problematic of understanding and relating to culture in the present, communication issues in cultural heritage could be solved by dealing with form, with how the content is delivered. For this, communicational context (that is, this generation worldview and perception of its own history and memory) should be taken into account, and by analyzing the specifications, which content (immaterial culture) must conform, cultural heritage could be output in such a way that is recognizable and practicable to its social group.
There are some precautions that should be noticed in the previous process. First of all, if the foundation of cultural heritage relies on properly passed-on content through generations, even though content should mold to its public, it must always refer to the knowledge and values that constitute its essence, if not, some meanings and purposes would be lost with each transmission, and with that, ultimately cultural heritage. Second, one should be aware there are two main agents in the process of culture inheritance: a source and a receiver. The sourcereceives the knowledge and develops the skills that imply immaterial culture, he or she chooses a media to convey that information, and if the media was appropriate, the receiver gets the information and acknowledges it. But cultural heritage is a process that demands recurrence, this means, that in order to cultural heritage to survive, the process should repeat again: some receiversmust become sources. For instance: the preparation of a traditional dish requires a cook and a person that eats, but the perpetuation of the dish relies on those persons that eat, eventually becoming the cooks. Meaning preservation and the formation of new agents in cultural heritage, are other of the problematics I will be dealing with.
We should treat cultural heritage as a living expression: in a world that changes constantly, cultural heritage should reach out through flexible testimonies. I consider culture protection should not depend on the maintenance of fixed forms (that could actually be the problem), but on transmitting knowledge and skills, with new forms that keep reflecting the spirit of tradition. I am going to concentrate in formulating a procedure for keeping cultural heritage alive in social groups. Ultimately, what I propose now is intervening with Cultural Heritage Survival driven by the aspiration to find answers to the question: is cultural heritage protection possible though ancestral knowledge re-mediation?