By Fanny Shum Chan
Have you ever questioned whether or not our history is being undermined? During my attendance at the event on “Promoting and Strengthening the International Legal Framework for the Protection of Cultural Heritage”. I was surprised that permanent representatives from different countries such as Cambodia, Costa Rica, Nepal, Czech Republic and others were going to be present at the meeting. However, the highlight of my day was Venezuela’s presence at the meeting, the country where I come from. All the permanent missions were sitting at the conference room with their maximum attention towards the speakers discussing on the importance of preserving our cultural heritage.
For me this meeting was different from the previous ones I attended because while at the meeting I suddenly had a flashback of myself in Gorée Island located in Senegal. I was fortunate to visit the House of Slaves, a place that is a World Heritage Site. As I approach the House of Slaves, I felt that I was going to a boring museum where a tour guide will just talk with an unenthusiastic tone. However, our tour guide turned out to be the most passionate one, he used facial expression and gestures to explain everything.
As I walked to a small room where the masters kept the slaves, it was very dark with iron shackles attached on the wall, which I felt the horror and coldness they encountered; as I continued entering the room. I started to imagine the cruelty that slaves endured and the vulnerability they had. Once I left the room, I looked around the place, I could not imagine that such a small place, the masters were able to keep thousands of slaves. As I go on my journey, I encountered myself with the Door of No Return where millions of slaves passed through that door to the New World.
Guess what? It was time to bring my thoughts back to the meeting. Having those flashbacks, it reminds me that it is important to preserve our cultural heritage because each of them were left by our ancestors as it tells a story with its own meaning. We begin to know less about our culture and allow modernity to pull us away from traditions that our ancestors have left for us to carry to future generations. However, little by little there are people whom realize that in order to advance, we must first look to the past.
The tendency to return to our roots, nature, and the practices of our ancestors are growing stronger locally and globally for simple reasons: globalization, consumerism and the destruction of our own habitat. The human being has contaminated the environment within the last 40 years, more than the whole history of its existence.
Lastly, at the meeting we realize that combining our current lifestyle with some ancestral customs is a solution to the great environmental and social problem we are facing. We find answers to problems of agriculture. To exemplify, in the techniques that ethnics have been implementing for centuries, their methods reflect sustainability which are fundamental in current organizations and highly effective and replicable mechanisms. From this premise is born the need and the desire to revive the culture and old practices of each region.