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Introduction

The Pacific Intangible Cultural Heritage Mapping Toolkit was developed by Sipiriano Nemani, Policy and Planning Analyst at the Department of National Heritage, Culture and Arts in Suva, Fiji, and commissioned by the Human Development Programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

The toolkit is based on Mr Nemani’s experience as part of a team that pioneered the development of a cultural mapping project whose goal was to determine and record the intangible cultural heritage or traditional knowledge of indigenous Fijians (or itaukei) and other peoples. In many cases, this cultural heritage is on the verge of disappearing, and requires urgent revitalization. Mr Nemani was instrumental in formulating research strategies and a methodology for the mapping initiative, which has been widely appreciated and adopted as a best practice approach in some Pacific Island countries since its inception in 2004. As a result, many of the examples in the toolkit are derived from Fiji, although they can be applied to other Pacific Island nations.

The project is part of the Government of Fiji’s initiative to ensure that the intangible cultural heritage of Fiji’s indigenous people is safeguarded. While many people may see this as a top-down approach in data collection and archiving, the government sees it otherwise. In this regard, communities and elders are seen as key holders of knowledge systems, and their wishes were always respected when undertaking mapping and subsequent dissemination of the information they imparted. These knowledge holders generally have limited access to recording tools, which is why the government — which has the required resources — became involved. It is important to establish a way that traditional knowledge can be stored and transmitted to the next generation before that knowledge becomes lost.

This toolkit is written from the perspective of a government cultural agency that is the initiator of a cultural mapping project. However, this does not stop communities from using the mechanisms outlined in this toolkit, adapting them to their own situation, and initiating the project themselves should they have the available resources to facilitate data collection. Doing so would provide a sense of ownership of the initiative, boost the morale of local people in safeguarding their initiative and, in the Pacific way, revitalise and promote the transmission of cultural information.