Director-General emphasises the role of young people’s involvement in safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage at festivals in Nara, Japan

On 6 August 2009, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, inaugurated the 8th UNESCO Children’s Performing Arts Festival (CPAF) of East Asia in Nara, Japan.

This was the second time Japan had hosted the festival, the first being in Fukuoka in 2002.

The opening ceremony was attended by the Governor of Nara Prefecture, Mr Shogo Arai and the Mayor of Nara, Mr Gen Nakagawa. As in previous years, the Japanese actress Komaki Kurihara also attended the festival, which brought together children from four countries, and two regions in East Asia – China (including Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR), Japan, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea. Unfortunately, children from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were not able to participate.

In his address, the Director-General emphasized the following message: “the performing arts are very demanding: they require dedication, teamwork and a great deal of preparation and practice. But they are also one of the best ways for people to meet and get to know one another, enabling them to overcome differences by working towards a common objective. In these turbulent times of economic and social crisis, such mutual understanding and solidarity are invaluable tools for building a brighter tomorrow”.

On 7 August, the Director-General opened the 10th Sub-Regional meeting of Secretaries-General of National Commissions for UNESCO in East Asia. During this meeting, it was decided, subject to further consultation, that in 2010 the 9th UNESCO Children’s Performing Arts Festival of East Asia would take place in Macao, China. Mr Matsuura expressed his sincere hope that this important initiative, which he had personally launched in 2001, would continue in the years to come.

Mr Matsurra returned to the theme of youth in his 8 August keynote speech at a Symposium on “The Future of Intangible Cultural Heritage” co-organized by UNESCO and the Asahi Shimbun Company, one of the leading news publishers in Japan. The Symposium, which gathered experts from across the region, was organized to sensitize the public at large to the importance of intangible heritage and to discuss the challenges of safeguarding it. In his speech, Mr Matsuura stated that the future of intangible cultural heritage cannot be discussed without considering the role of young people. Observing that younger generations in modern societies may have difficulties in understanding the values and significance of intangible cultural heritage, the Director-General noted that in traditional societies, where information from outside was limited and young people acquired new knowledge primarily from older people in their communities, intangible cultural heritage was naturally and directly transmitted from generation to generation through their daily activities.

The symposium was followed by a showcase of performing arts and traditional theatre, including some masterpieces of intangible cultural heritage such as “Nôgaku Theatre” from Japan, “Kun Qu Opera” from China and “Mugham” from Azerbaijan. The performances took place in the forecourt of the Daibutsuden (the Great Buddha Hall) of the Todaiji-temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokesperson
  • Source:Flash Info N° 147-2009
  • 13-08-2009
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