Intangible Heritage as Theme Park?

Intangible Cultural Heritage Square?  Cruises Avenue?

I thought the whole idea of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was to offer encouragement to community expression through belief, performance, and crafts that are rapidly disappearing in our globalizing, mass-producing world.

It wasn’t just to collect and display colorful performances and souvenirs in a 21st century carnival.  Sure the Smithsonian Folklife Festival has brought together artists and craftsmen from all over the world every summer since 1967 on the United States’ national equivalent of a town green.  It’s free, always changing, and tied closely to the season.  

But an amusement park for Intangible Cultural Heritage, hoping to receive 8 million paying customers along its carefully planned walkways and performance areas?  Sounds like a bad case of the very same kind of mass-produced cultural packaging that the ICH Convention was meant to combat.

But then no one ever accused the Peoples’ Republic either of thinking small or allowing local community cultural expression to go unsupervised for too long…

World Bank President Robert Zoellick poses with colorful costumed minority culture person as many of the 8 million annual visitors to the International Intangible Cultural Heritage Exposition Park in Chengdu will undoubtedly do.

From The Peoples Daily Online – April 19, 2011

China’s first heritage exposition park to open in May

China’s first International Intangible Cultural Heritage Exposition Park is expected to open at the end of May in Chengdu, according to a press conference at the Third China Chengdu International Intangible Cultural Heritage Festival on April 18.

The festival will last from May 29 to June 11 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

The forthcoming International Intangible Cultural Heritage Exposition Park covers an area of more than 1.1 million square meters and will feature areas such as the Intangible Cultural Heritage Square, Cruises Avenue, the Exhibition Center, the Performance Center and the museum.

It will also combine intangible cultural heritage touring performances, entertainment, experience and consumption. After the International Intangible Cultural Heritage Festival is finished, the performances and exhibitions of intangible cultural heritage will become a normal part of the park.

After the construction of the park is completed, it will host the International Intangible Cultural Heritage Festival every two years and will also become a protection base for China’s intangible cultural heritage. It is expected that the park will receive more than 8 million visitors each year.

When Will They Ever Learn?

Regarding the recent “early-books-of-Christianity-discovered-by-a-bedouin-scam” reported here and elsewhere over the past week or so, information provided by Jim Davila’s always sensible and reliable should put the whole thing to bed once and for all.

Ah, the Daily Mail. UFOs, celebrity gossip, and the earliest texts of Christianity. Photo: David Elkington/Rex Features (whatever that is)

Philip Davies should know better.

Margaret Baker should get her head out of the clouds.

The Director of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, Ziad Al-Saad, should investigate an unprovenanced  discovery on the antiquities market more thoroughly before he makes muscular official statements to the press about “treasures” and make claims for repatriation.

And David Elkington, whoever you are, should never try to pull a stunt like this again.