21 May marks World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development – an annual United Nations international day that aims to acknowledge the world’s natural and cultural diversity.
The day provides an opportunity for us to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity, as it is a driving force of development around the world economically and socially.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the cultural sector significantly, leaving events cancelled, cultural institutions closed and community cultural practices suspended.
During such trying period, culture has become a source of comfort and connection for many, especially for those living abroad and away from families, by way of access to cultural content online such as film streaming and virtual visits to museums and galleries, among many others,
Culture and its history are morals, beliefs and aims, which together form an individual’s cultural identity.
The racial and cultural diversity in Sarawak is notable, with a large number of indigenous groups that can be found in the State.
Sarawakian youths need to be aware of their cultural heritage in order to preserve and promote their history and cultural diversity.
Preserving one’s culture isn’t just in the form of protecting cultural sites, places of worship or historical landmarks. It also involves preserving the experience and skills passed down from generation to generation.
A group’s cultural heritage is different, precious and irreplaceable, which is why it must be safeguarded.
As modernisation marches on, the assimilation between various cultures is becoming much faster and easier than before.
Some nuances of cultural heritage become lost in the rush of development, but technology can be a useful tool to maintain them.
For example, craftspeople, artists and other cultural professionals use social media to reach new audiences, while researchers use artificial intelligence (AI) to document indigenous languages and digitise old records.
The Sarawak Language Technology Research Group (SaLT) is using AI to research and create language processing tools for some of the State’s ethnic languages.
By creating more awareness of the indigenous groups of Sarawak, we can elevate their diverse voices and in turn help stabilise their respective communities as development solutions are tailored to the unique histories of each of them.
This brings about more impactful and longer lasting solutions that can help lift rural communities out of poverty without the need to assimilate cultures in favour of modernisation.
Therefore, keeping the history alive allows for more cultural diversity, tolerance and respect towards differences.
Needless to say, cultural diversity must be protected as it is key to peace. Bridging the gap between cultures is especially crucial to ensure a nation’s socio-economic stability and sustainable development.
Cultural diversity needs to be accepted and recognised as a symbol of resilience, which is why celebrating World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is important for all cultures around the world.
File photo from RAKAN Sarawak.