Monday, 24 October 2011 9:18 AM

Regional Workshop on Mapping Pacific Cultural Heritage Sites

Participants attending a sub-regional workshop on mapping cultural heritage sites along the Coral Coast in Sigatoka were informed of the significant role physical mapping plays in the preservation of endangered cultural heritage sites.

Part of the workshop involved a site mapping exercise in Tavuni Hill Fort, in the interior of Nadroga.

Elise Huffer, SPC's Human Development Programme Adviser - Culture, said the workshop is the first activity of the third component of an EU-funded, SPC-managed project worth ? 813,447 (FJD 2,092,000): 'Structuring the Cultural Sector for Improved Human Development'. This component is carried out in partnership with the Pacific Islands Museum Association (PIMA) and involves six countries.
'We're lucky to have the Fiji Museum as a partner, as it has a lot of expertise in this area. Basically what the participants are looking at is simple mapping with very simple tools and transferring these skills to the communities so that the communities can engage in mapping themselves,' explained Huffer.
The focus of the one-week workshop was to map out the tangible cultural heritage which will complement intangible cultural heritage mapping.

'So it's really about measuring and understanding where the culturally significant aspects of the sites are and being able to map them out correctly. People can use it as a tool for preserving and promoting those sites,' Huffer said.

Sepeti Matararaba, the field research officer in the Department of Prehistory Archaeology at the Fiji Museum emphasised that they try to recommend the best way to preserve and protect historical sites.

'This is because new development in Fiji, can be very destructive to historical sites when people are not aware of what they have on their land. When developers come in and bulldoze everything, they lose what their grandparents lived in or built in the past.'

Moira Zeta Enetama, Manager of Taoga Niue, the government project that promotes Niuean culture and heritage, said the workshop was an eye-opener in terms of the practicality of cultural mapping. 'It is very interesting to be able to integrate the intangible with the tangible. We have been separating them for a long time because of the convention and our own understanding, but coming to this workshop and being able to merge the two and have a better understanding of how they complement each other has been useful.'

Another participant Alamai Sioni, cultural officer at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Rural Development in Tuvalu said the meeting and the mapping exercise were very fulfilling and beneficial.

Historian Steven Titiml from the RMI Historic Preservation Office said the workshop is especially beneficial for him. 'I've come to gather some data for our office, where we are trying to write a national map of our traditional navigation. We feel that it is an endangered skill in the Marshall Islands.'

"Not a lot of people are left who have that knowledge but I'll try to find ways to build our capacity so that we can help the Marshall Islands people preserve their culture and knowledge of traditional navigation, and 'reading' the weather and wave patterns. We are also trying to teach our children about their culture and how to preserve it for the future,' Titiml said.
Adi Meretui Ratunabuabua of PIMA and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS Pasifika) said that when they complete this training, participants should return to their respective countries with an awareness of what is required for sound mapping.
'Many of the sites that we have in the Pacific are not given enough prominence. We seem to be going for development but forgetting our roots and where we come from.'

She added that if people do not do their mapping, they do not get their records. 'It's important that we get the physical mapping for their sites. The other aspect is oral history and transmission, the know-how, the storytelling, the songs, the dance music, the hairstyles, the weddings - all these and more to be recorded and documented.'

Elise Huffer said there needs to be a greater focus on heritage preservation and promotion.

'It's a beginning for some countries, an opportunity to either incorporate it into their work they are already doing or the beginning of something they would like to do. What I find really useful is that fact that they doing this together with the Fiji Museum,' she added.

The six countries are Kiribati, Bougainville, Republic of Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Nauru and Niue. Some countries are focusing on tangible heritage sites as their mapping focus but will also be collecting associated intangible heritage data while other countries are focusing primarily on intangible heritage.