In response to a request made by the Guna indigenous community of Panama through the Ministry of Culture of Panama, UNESCO supports the Guna indigenous community in their efforts to safeguard their intangible cultural heritage.
This week, a UNESCO mission visited the community at Nalunega Island together with the Ministry of Culture of Panama in order to evaluate its proposals and prepare a project application for international assistance under the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund. This project will allow the implementation of essential actions for the safeguarding of living heritage, such as the updating of inventories and the formulation of safeguarding plans focused on transmission. A workshop was hosted at the Bundorgalo - House of the Women’s Association with the participation of community leaders, women and young peoples. The workshop took place in Spanish and in dulegaya, the guna language, in the framework of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032).
According to the cultural authorities of the Guna people, cultural manifestations associated with oral tradition, such as narratives, lullabies, ritual songs, as well as certain expressions such as music, dance and theatre, are in a state of vulnerability and require actions to safeguard them by linking culture and education.
The Guna people - who inhabit the eastern Caribbean coast of Panama and northern Colombia - have already made significant efforts with UNESCO to comply with the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Since 2011, inventories of cultural elements have been drawn up and multiple workshops and binational meetings of women artisans and traditional authorities have been held. But still, the transmission of the Guna culture remains under threat. For this reason, a new project is being worked on hand in hand with the community.
Intangible cultural heritage consists of the living expressions of culture that the community identifies as part of its cultural heritage. The importance of intangible cultural heritage lies not in the cultural manifestation itself, but in the knowledge and skills that are passed on from generation to generation.
Living heritage strengthens the social fabric of communities and is a valuable resource for formulating nature and culture-based solutions that contribute to the achievement of the Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2003 Convention recognizes that indigenous peoples play an important role in the production, safeguarding, maintenance and recreation of intangible cultural heritage. The transmission of this heritage is key to aspects such as community resilience, environmental sustainability and education, as well as to the full exercise of indigenous peoples’ cultural rights.