13 Feb 2015

Cultural Identity and Heritage Presentation at St. Maarten Youth Desk

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On January 27th and 29th , the St. Maarten National Commission for UNESCO (United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) held sessions on ‘Cultural Identify’ for the newly opened St. Maarten Youth Desk.  These sessions which were organized by the Department for Youth Affairs for secondary school students, focused on explaining what is ‘Cultural Identity’ and how ones Cultural Heritage is the source of our IDENTITY,and the seal that sets us apart as a nation.

It was shared that Cultural identity is a dynamic and a complex feeling and sense of belonging to one or more ethnic groups.  It defines the way an individual identifies or positions himself in different cultural contexts. (Oumadib, 2011).

During the sessions, the high school students got the opportunity to discuss and gave examples of St. Maarten’s Culture, and learnt that Cultural Heritage is often expressed as either Tangible or Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICOMOS, 2002).  Some examples of St. Maarten’s Tangible Cultural Heritage are: Fort Amsterdam, the Court House, the Monument Boarder, the Methodist Church.  Whilst examples of St. Maarten’s Intangible Cultural Heritage are: the Ponum Dance, our St. Martin Talk, the preparation of local food, drinks, candies, and crafts, to name a few.

It was also share that learning about our own heritage helps us become more aware of our own roots, and helps us to understand the wealth of other cultures and people.  Finally in the session it was emphasized that :

  • By understanding our cultural heritage
    •     people value it
  • By valuing it
    •     people want to care for it
  • By caring for it
    •     it will help people enjoy it
  • From enjoying it
    •     comes a thirst to understand

(Simon Thurley, 2005)