The Significance of Cultural Heritage

About Eritrea - History & Culture

Cultural heritage is a way of living a community has inherited from previous generations that it passes on to the following generation.

 

It refers to cultural sites, monuments, folklore, traditional activities, practices, languages, customs, artistic expressions, values, etc. that are considered vital to be preserved for future generations. Cultural heritage gives people a connection to certain social values, beliefs, religions and customs. It also allows them to identify with others with similar backgrounds. Cultural heritage gives people a sense of unity and belonging within a group and allows them to better understand previous generations and the history of where they come from.

Cultural heritage implies a shared bond and our belonging to a community. It represents our history and our identity, our bond to the past, to our present and the future. In an era of globalization, cultural heritage helps us to remember our cultural diversity and develop mutual respect and renewed dialogue amongst different cultures.

There are both tangible and intangible cultural heritages. A tangible cultural heritage has a physical presence. It includes buildings and historic places, monuments and artifacts which are considered worthy of preservation for the future. They include objects significant to the archaeology, architecture, science or technology of a specific culture. Objects are important to the study of human history because they provide a concrete basis. A tangible heritage comprises movable and immovable heritage. A movable heritage can be moved from one place to another whereas an immovable heritage, such as a building, cannot.

An intangible cultural heritage is commonly defined as not having a physical presence. It includes 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, religious ceremonies, skills to produce traditional crafts, music, dance, literature, theatre, languages, and food. An intangible heritage is particularly difficult to protect as it is only experienced and cannot be kept in a sheltered place to be guarded. More than an individual or an organization, it requires efforts by an entire community to protect it. This is because an intangible heritage gives us a sense of identity. We can use different ways and methods to protect our intangible cultural heritage.

For instance, speaking our language helps us to preserve our ethno-linguistic identity. Not using our language could certainly cause it to perish. Our national holidays like carnivals and festivals are colorful and they are fun. But let us imagine how much we can lose if an annual festival and carnival that attract people from outside and inside the community do not take place within a year? We also have to participate in cultural activities whenever we get a chance. The best way to preserve a heritage is to use them as often as we can.

It is important to realize that what we see today as our cultural heritage is constructed in the sense that it is carefully selected by people living in the present nation state to create a common sense of identity; it is the stories we select from our past that say something about us as a people. Cultural heritage plays a very important role in our life. It is what keeps us attached to our religion, traditions, and beliefs. It is the duty of our society to preserve our cultural heritage. Here are nine crucial reasons why it is important to preserve our cultural heritage.

It conveys messages ???and values that give meaning to people’s life.

It represents the ???identity of a social group.

It can provide a sense of ???unity and belonging within a group and allows us to better understand previous generations and the history of where we come from.

It is a source of economic ???development.

It represents a vehicle ???for understanding the diversity of people and developing a policy for peace and mutual comprehension.

It strongly influences ???our sense of identity, loyalties, knowledge, beliefs, emotions, and behavior.

It leads to wider ???awareness of our cultural complexity and their bases.

It is a reflection of people’s ???technology, creativity and their level of intellectual development.

It is a unique ???and irreplaceable source of life and inspiration.

The preservation of our cultural heritage is not merely a suggestion. It is every people’s responsibility. What contribution can we make toward the preservation and conservation of our cultural heritage? It is necessary to raise awareness about cultural heritage in our community in order to identify different tools that can be developed for their preservation.

The preservation can be done by:teaching our own• children to practice the traditions and beliefs of our ancestors and telling them to continue to pass to future generations and teaching them to be proud of their roots especially if they know very little, increasing and spreading awareness about monuments and their importance,participating in• associations that fund workshops and museums which can help to educate others about cultural heritage,
preventing ourselves and • others from scribbling on the walls of historic and prehistoric sites,
developing curriculum • to give cultural heritage education in our schools formally and informally,
attending and • organizing major events such as festivals, carnivals, cultural activities, and competitions,
involving community-• based research on the preservation of cultural heritage,
collecting and • disseminating information about cultural heritage through the media – newspapers and magazines -- seminars and lectures.

Libraries and museums have a central role in preserving and promoting cultural heritage and the best way to preserve our cultural heritage is to share it with others. It is our responsibility to keep world history intact for the coming generation so that they may have the same opportunities to learn about the past and their own roots as we have.

The main foundation of every country and every society is its culture. Culture is not something that we can create in a day, week or month. The development of culture in a society is a long process. Understanding our cultural heritage can give us a better sense of our personal identity and promote better cooperation in our community. It can play an essential role in our society by linking the past, the present and the future generation, a basis for building a strong nation and national identity.