Living heritage is our way of life. It is the knowledge, traditions and forms of expressions that have been passed down from generation to generation. It includes oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Living heritage or intangible heritage is knowledge, traditions and expressions that are an essential part of the daily lives of communities. It evolves as communities react and interact with their surrounding environment. Tangible heritage, on the other hand, is the physical representation of living heritage; it comes in forms that we can see and touch.
Living heritage belongs to the people who practice it, to the communities, cultural practitioners and everyone who is a part of it.
To safeguard living heritage is to ensure it is not forgotten or erased. Safeguarding is ensuring that living heritage is transmitted from generation to generation and continues to be recreated as an important part of our way of life.
(Safeguarding is Protecting without freezing. Culture is dynamic, constantly changing. So rather than protecting our living heritage as it is, safeguarding allows for the evolving nature of culture.)
Living heritage is important because it is a part of who we are, part of the identity and historical and cultural continuity of a community; it brings communities together. It is important to safeguard and keep it alive through transmission from generation to generation.
Living heritage is defined by and relevant to the communities that practice them, and communities often find innovative and creative ways to express their histories, backgrounds, ideas, interests and beliefs. Modern cultural expressions, activities, festivals, practices and manifestations can be considered living heritage when there is a community that readily identifies it as such, or create new ways of expressing traditional heritage. The communities are central to living heritage; therefore, if it is meaningful to a community, it is part of its living heritage.
There are many ways to contribute to safeguarding living heritage. Teachers can contribute by teaching about the different forms of living heritage; practitioners contribute by continuing to practice and teach others; students contribute by learning; researchers by documenting; the general public by appreciating, promoting and supporting; and general audiences by supporting initiatives and products that are linked to living heritage.
Most importantly, safeguarding living heritage involves its transmission from generation to generation. Individuals and groups can assist in safeguarding living heritage by ensuring its continuity and relevance to the communities.
Communities are important because they are the ones that collectively and continuously practice, create and transmit our living heritage. They are at the center of safeguarding efforts.
NICH is the Government of Belize’s focal point for implementing the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It’s primary role in safeguarding living heritage is providing technical and financial assistance in ensuring its viability, ensuring awareness raising and education about the importance of safeguarding living heritage, reporting on the implementation of the Convention, and overall contributing to an enabling environment for the continued transmission, safeguarding of Belize’s living heritage.