Preserving the Intangible: Wikitongues and Island Ark Project Partnership in Protecting Indigenous Cultural Knowledge
The variety of unique cultures around the world is one of the many reasons that makes humanity a beautiful thing. As stated in the 2003 UNESCO Convention, Intangible Cultural Heritage, or ICH, includes valuable traditions and customs such as dances, performing arts, craftsmanship, language, rituals, and ways of seeing the world. There are numerous more factors that help define one’s culture, adding to the beautiful melting pot of society. In addition, as society continuously changes around us over time, a community’s culture also adapts to these changes with the environment as well. But when certain uncontrollable forces endanger a community’s culture and potential livelihood, what can be done? The Island Ark Project has been indulged in the beauty of the Pacific Island culture, yet also understanding the effects this region is susceptible to when facing issues such as climate change and associated sea-level rise. Wikitongues, a fellow non-profit organization co-founded by Daniel Bogre Udell, Frederico Andrade, and Lindie Botes in 2014, similarly emphasizes the importance of preserving culture, specifically indigenous languages, around the world, protecting them from threats including climate change, globalization, and other factors that have contributed to the progressing loss of indigenous languages and ICH. Wikitongues has explicitly emphasized that “when a community loses their language, bonds to their heritage are severed and the foundation of cultural identity is weakened.” Not only is the loss of a language the loss of a community’s vernacular system, but it is a loss of a culture as well. In saying that, Wikitongues and the Island Ark Project similarly believe that the preservation of ICH is critical.
Protecting ICH with Technology Together
As the Island Ark Project trains communities to apply digital tools to safeguard various kinds of ICH, Wikitongues similarly uses technology as a method of preserving indigenous languages. Sharing similar goals and concerns, the Island Ark Project and Wikitongues have agreed a formal Memorandum of Understanding by which the two organizations aim to share audio-visual materials, where this is allowed by the holders of the copyright. Island Ark Project Co-Founder Dennis Redeker agrees that:
“The collaboration between Wikitongues and the Island Ark Project in the area of safeguarding cultural heritage and indigenous languages has great potential. Both organizations have their distinct and very digitally-driven approaches to engage communities and make knowledge available to many people around the world. To come together and to work together on indigenous languages is particularly important and fruitful in the International Year of Indigenous Languages, called by the United Nations.”
Since establishing a partnership with Wikitongues, the Island Ark Project has taken the initiative of working with them in a video project with Tobian native Marcus Hangaripaii. Born in one of the Southwest Islands of Palau in Hatohobei, Hangaripaii speaks on the differences and similarities between these neighboring communities of Palau and Hatohobei.
Marcus Hangaripaii discussing Tobian culture and language
In recent planning and discussions, the Island Ark Project is continuing to work alongside Wikitongues and other organizations for 2019's “International Year of Indigenous Languages” (IYIL19). The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, requesting UNESCO to serve as the lead organization of IYIL19. The Island Ark Project truly believes that by creating this bond with Wikitongues, we can further succeed in our goals around the protection of intangible cultural heritage. As a newly registered media partner of 2019’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, the Island Ark Project will participate in creating a new event within the year, in dedication to indigenous communities and languages abroad. So, stay tuned!
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Thank you to our partners in the Pacific and to ICHCAP for allowing the Island Ark Project to continue the work we do in response to the ever-changing culture and environment we live in. And in addition, a warm and special thanks to Wikitongues for our newly established partnership and friendship for future projects together.
Island Ark Team
We write this blog as a team to showcase our activities around the globe, from meetings at UNESCO in Paris to on-island research and implementation work. We hope you enjoy reading about our journey.