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Pacific countries not ready to commodify culture

Pacific countries not ready to commodify culture, says PNG expert

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Saturday October 21, 2006: African and Caribbean countries at the First ACP Festival have been discussing how to make money out of their cultures – but the Pacific is not ready to go down that road, according to delegate Jacob Simet, the director of Papua New Guinea’s National Cultural Commission.

Much of the discussion at this week’s professional meetings for “cultural professionals” of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) have discussed how to develop “cultural industries” - job-creating, profitable activities based on cultural creativity, he says.

This can range from selling traditional arts and crafts, visual arts and music, to service-oriented activities such as interactive media, design and digital animation, and tourist-attracting festivals.

“In some of the African and Caribbean counties, you have this emphasis on culture being an industry, being a commodity,” says Jacob, who has a doctorate in anthropology and is a member of several high-level cultural advisory bodies.

“In the Pacific, we seem to talk about culture as heritage, and the importance to culture to people’s way of life and identity.”

In the Pacific, he says, there are possibly ways for cultural expression to make more of a contribution to national economies. But he does not believe the region is ready for culture to become central to money-making plans. This is because most Pacific Island countries and territories lack the legislative and policy platforms that clarify a society’s approach to culture, in particular its protection, promotion and preservation.

“I don’t believe we are ready to commodify culture,” says Jacob. “We first have to have our platforms for culture in place – the legislation and cultural policies that give us the appropriate protection mechanisms, and sort out issues such as ownership, access and benefit-sharing. Benefit-sharing has to be part of the picture.”

The five days of meetings ended with a series of recommendations to be put to ACP’s Committee of Ambassadors in Brussels. They are, in brief: 1) Cultural policies: To encourage member states to put in place national and regional policies that integrate culture in the development process by providing incentives including tax rebates and support to cultural industries and the safeguarding of cultural diversity; 2) Copyright: To review, strengthen and facilitate the enforcement of copyright laws and their relevant legislation; 3) Cooperation: to encourage member states to develop intra-ACP cooperation by favouring qualified experts from the “economic south”; to facilitate the free movement of artists and their products by encouraging member states to eliminate visa requirements; to support the establishment of a cultural visa to facilitate artists’ travel; 4) Cultural diversity: To urge member states to implement the UNESCO convention on cultural diversity (need proper title here) ; 5) Training and professionalism: to provide networks to support training and professional development in ACP member states; 6) Funding: To encourage ACP member states to increase funding to cultural projects; 7) Media: To encourage statutory bodies to respect and enforce copyright law in the media; 8) Professional encounters: To ensure that meetings of ministers of culture and/or senior government officials be preceded by meetings of cultural professionals.

* Elsewhere at the First ACP Festival, Pacific performers have been sharing their talents. The programme has included jam sessions from midnight for visiting musicians, and last night, members of the Seven Stars Band from Samoa “stole the show” , according to one of the festival organisers. The band members are brothers Melvin and Hemi Solomona; Faamanatu Solomona; Ruta Masinalupe; Andante Moors; Polani Pita; and Eric Poe.

Tonight, the closing event of the festival is a fashion show in which rising Cook Islands designer Marion Howard will show island pareos. She will share the stage with designers from the Dominican Republic and its neighbour Haiti, and another from Cameroon, a country in Africa.

ends

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