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Sunday, February 12, 2012

9 Mar 12 Gathering: Mongolia by Kevin; Kruger NP by Kieran

Friday 9th March 2012

Potluck & Chat @ 7:30pm
Just bring a small box of pastries, or a packet of noodles for about 3-4 people,
or a bottle or 2 of soft drinks.

Presentation @ 8:30pm
Brief Moments - A Drive Thru Kruger South Africa - by Kieran Goh
Mongolia: Tracing the steps of Genghis Khan
from the Gobi Desert to Hovsgol Lake
by Kevin Dinh

@ Campers Corner

51 Waterloo St  Singapore 187969
http://www.camperscorner.com.sg 
https://www.facebook.com/camperscornerstation51 



PLEASE NOTE YOUR ATTENDANCE BELOW,
so that the organisers have a rough idea how many people are turning up.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Yusheng, and Opportunities for Regional Cooperation

Yusheng, and Opportunities for Regional Cooperation
 
 
In 2010, I made a Facebook post seeking views on Singapore's intangible cultural heritage but nobody responded.  Therefore, I am amazed at how the issue has suddenly come alive and is now being reported in some newspapers as a formal proposal for yusheng to be listed on UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage programme (ICH).
 
The heated passions and the interest that have been aroused by this issue, together with the KTM Rail Corridor and Bukit Brown issues, do indicate that Singaporeans care a lot about our heritage and identity as a nation. 
 
It is important, at this point to revisit the UNESCO World Heritage scheme and its relevance for Singapore.
The UNESCO World Heritage Convention is an international treaty that seeks to identify sites around the world which possess outstanding value to humanity and commit signatory nations to protect and preserve these sites.  It is widely acknowledged that world heritage status often result in significant rise in tourism numbers and receipts, why explains the interest many governments have in the programme. 
 
The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.is an offshoot of the world heritage scheme, and its key focus are, according to UNESCO, "traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts." 
 
Singapore is neither a signatory to the World Heritage Convention nor the 2003 Convention on ICH, and as such the issue of Singapore attempting to list a Malaysian intangible cultural heritage does not arise.
 
UNESCO emphasises that "the importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next."  Such heritage is meant to give us "a sense of identity and continuity, providing a link from our past, through the present, and into our future."
 
UNESCO explains that the scheme is meant to be inclusive, and "does not give rise to questions of whether or not certain practices are specific to a culture."  Countries are often encouraged to seek joint listing of intangible cultural heritage. Since the UNESCO ICH inception in 2003, 267 "elements" belonging to 142 countries have been listed as intangible cultural heritage, of which 10 are joint listings, which include, the following:
 
* Mediterranean cuisine: Joint listing by Greece, Italy, Spain and Morocco
* Nowruz festival: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Turkey
* Language, Dance and Music of the Garifuna: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras & Nicaragua
 
In the case of falconry, twelve countries as diverse as Belgium, Morocco, Mongolia and Saudi Arabia jointly applied for listing and succeeded in the efforts.
 
What are these implications for Southeast Asian nations?
 
This region has, since time immemorial, been a region of transcontinental trade and cultural exchange. The peoples of this region have frequently intermarried with each other, and have demonstrated enormous capacity to adapt other cultural practices into their own value systems. In numerous cases, the marriages of different practices have resulted in a fascinating range of cuisines, crafts, traditions and performing arts that continue to evolve today in a dynamic fashion.
 
Peranakan culture, which is the marriage of Malay-Indonesian and Chinese cultures manifested through cuisine, material art and traditions, is a good example of this exuberant cultural exchange in historical Nanyang, particularly in Singapore, Melaka, Penang, Jakarta, Surabaya and Medan.
Frequent trading and cultural exchanges between the cities in the region further enriched the communities that lived in these lands and have produced a cosmopolitan hybrid that is still a sense of pride among Singaporeans, Malaysians and Indonesians. This suggests a great opportunity for a joint application of these nations for UNESCO ICH inscription of this unique culture and cuisine. The success of this application would signify a celebration of a shared heritage and would help foster ties among the nations
 
Also often mentioned by anthropologists as unique to the region are the colourful rituals of the Nine Emperor God Festival, a festival unknown in China but elaborately celebrated among Taoists in Phuket, Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The festival is already officially acknowledged by the governments of Thailand and Malaysia as a key representation of local culture and traditions. A joint application of this festival to the UNESCO ICH would be an excellent example of cooperation between Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand
 
This then brings us to the question of whether yusheng would qualify for ICH listing. Yusheng as a dish is originated from neither Singapore nor Malaysia. In fact, the concept of eating raw fish salad exists in many forms from the southern tip of Argentina to Zamboanga in the Philippines. What is unique about yusheng is the tossing of the salad to signify community bond and goodwill, and a hope for peace, happiness and prosperity, all qualities highlighted as UNESCO ICH criteria.
 
The tossing of yusheng as a focus of community spirit and bond makes it an intangible cultural heritage of both Singapore and Malaysia.  However, yusheng at the current stage, due to its relatively recent invention and evolution, probably does not satisfy the UNESCO criterion for a heritage element to have been "transmitted from generation to generation".  We do not know if the significance of the yusheng toss of today would survive in the future. This means that, even if the yusheng toss can be considered an intangible cultural heritage of Singapore or Malaysia, it does not qualify as a UNESCO ICH. 
 
I believe that the listing of yusheng is premature. Those interested in the listing of yusheng should come back in 100 years time to see if the yusheng toss is still practised with the same spirit. If it does, then that criterion may be satisfied.
 
The debate on whether yusheng is Singaporean or Malaysian distracts people from the real issue, which is to find ways to preserve and promote our historical and cultural heritage.  I hope this affair would instead sets us off thinking what constitutes our heritage, how to preserve it and whether we can use the UNESCO ICH as an opportunity to promote regional cooperation and celebrate our shared past, present and future.
 

Tan Wee Cheng

捞鱼生与促进区域合作的机遇


鱼生与促进区域合作的机遇


2010年在面簿上征询网友关于我国是否有哪些非物质文化遗产的意见,一年多来都没有人回应. 所以, 我对各媒体这时突然报道这个话题, 甚至一些马来西亚媒体宣称我正式提议把 "捞鱼生" 申报联合国教科文组织非物质文化遗产感到迷

公众对捞鱼生、马来亚铁道和咖啡山等课题所积极发表的言论,显示了新加坡人确切关心我们的文化遗产及国家认同感。

新加坡不是2003年联合国教科文组织非物质文化遗产公约的签署国,所以新加坡试图把马来西亚的非物质文化遗产申遗的问题并不存在。教科文组织规定此公约是包容性的,对成功申遗的非物质文化遗产是否是某个文化专属并不感兴趣。事实上,非物质文化遗产清单有10个是由多国联合提交成功申遗的,其中包括希腊,意大利,西班牙和摩洛哥联合提交成功申遗的地中海饮食文化。

东南亚自古以来是横贯亚洲的贸易和文化交流的地区。这地区的人民及外来族群经常互相通婚,并以巨大适应与包容的能力将自己和外来的文化习俗与价值观融合在一起,并在民俗、饮食、手工艺品,传统表演艺术是各领域形成了一种迷人的特有现象。
 
土生华人文化融合了马来西亚、印尼及中国的美食,物质艺术和传统文化,这是一个很好的例子.几百年来,南洋各大城市、如新加坡,马六甲,槟城,雅加达,泗水和棉兰之间的文化交流,已进一步丰富了这地区人民的物质与文化生活,至今这仍然是新加坡,马来西亚和印尼之间的自豪。如果各国可乘绝佳机会成功联合申遗,将有助于促进国家之间的紧密关系与人民之间的往来及地区共同感。
 
丰富多彩的九皇爷节日仪式是东南亚华人特有的民俗庆典。这节日在中国找不到,但200多年来在泰国普吉岛,槟城、吉隆坡和新加坡的民间,以成为地方文化和传统文化的象征性代表,并得到泰国和马来西亚政府的肯定。如果新加坡、马来西亚和泰国向联合国教科文组织成功的申遗这节日将是三国之间的合作的很好例子。

捞鱼生是否符合教科文组织非物质文化遗产的申遗规则?鱼生作为一道菜的起源并非新加坡或马来西亚。其实,吃生鱼的概念在世界多地区存在,近有菲律宾三宝颜,远则阿根廷南端。新马地区捞鱼生的独特意义不在味道,而是这仪式显示了社区及民间的凝聚力及对未来的期望。这也符合教科文组织非物质文化遗产的部分标准。

捞鱼生可说是新加坡和马来西亚的一种非物质文化遗产。然而,在目前阶段,由于其发明和演变史比较短,并不满足教科文组织申遗所必具备的代代相传准则。捞鱼生所包含的那种民间凝聚力与意义,是否100年以后还存在,目前还是个未知数。这意味着,即使捞鱼生可说是新加坡和马来西亚的一种非物质文化遗产,它不一定成功申遗。所以我相信,捞鱼生申遗还为时过早。
 
不幸的是,许多人对鱼生是否是新加坡或马来西亚专有的辩论更感兴趣,这种毫无意义的辩论,却使我们忽略了目前更重要的工作 - 就是如何保护两国的历史和传统文化遗产。我希望这事件可让我们思考一下:到底什么是我们的文化遗产、如何维护它,并通过申遗促进区域合作及民间交流。



陈维政