Intangible Cultural Heritage in Vanuatu

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported how the Vanuatu Kaljarol Senta (VKS), or Vanuatu Cultural Center, is working with the International Training Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) under United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to boost its stakeholder’s capacity on intangible cultural heritage and community resilience in Vanuatu.


The Vanuatu Cultural Center, Port Vila, Vanuatu

A capacity building workshop was held last month that helped equip participants to identify cultural institutions in Vanuatu and their roles and efforts to safeguard the intangible cultural heritage of communities. It was held at the VKS conference room and attended by participants from the various departments, VKS fieldworkers, VKS staffs and the Vanuatu National Cultural Council.

Through the workshop, participants learned about Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) and its impact on cultural sector. They were able to understand the process involved in the operation of PDNA in post disaster, including the importance of having a national inventory and baseline information on ICH .

The workshop also provided an in depth learning of existing ICH safeguarding activities  and foster the promotion and development of safeguarding plans for sustainability of ICH elements in communities.

One fascinating form of expression in Vanuatu is the art of sand drawing. This multifunctional “writing” is more than an indigenous artistic expression and it occurs in a wide range of ritual, contemplative and communicative contexts. The drawings are produced directly on the ground, in sand, volcanic ash or clay. Using one finger, the drawer traces a continuous meandering line on an imagined grid to produce a graceful, often symmetrical, composition of geometric patterns.


Vanuatu Sand drawing example, courtesy of UNESCO

This rich and dynamic graphic tradition has developed as a means of communication among the members of some 80 different language groups inhabiting the central and northern islands of Vanuatu. The drawings also function as mnemonic devices to record and transmit rituals, mythological lore and a wealth of oral information about local histories, cosmologies, kinship systems, song cycles, farming techniques, architectural and craft design, and choreographic patterns.

In fact, in 2003 UNESCO proclaimed Vanuatu sandroing to be a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.’ This international distinction honors the most remarkable examples of oral traditions and forms of cultural expression in all regions of the world. The UNESCO jury also awarded Vanuatu an additional prize as recognition of sandroing’s outstanding cultural value, and to encourage the people of Vanuatu to sustain and foster this unique practice.

About islandculturearchivalsupport

Island Culture Archival Support (ICAS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of records pertaining to the cultural identity of island peoples in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia whose national and public archives, libraries, cultural centers, and business organizations are underprivileged, underfunded, and understaffed. The specific purpose for which this nonprofit corporation was formed is to support the needs of these South Pacific cultural heritage institutions by helping to preserve and make accessible records created for business, accountability or cultural purposes. The organization will endeavor to add value by providing resources or volunteers to advise, train, and work among island residents to support their efforts in building their future and preserving their collective memory through the use of modern archival techniques.
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