We tend to think of big statues and monuments on hearing the word “heritage”. But this simple understanding causes us to miss an equally important component that gives heritage a truly unique and comprehensive meaning. A lot more than just stones and buildings, our heritage also includes intangible cultural forms like oral traditions, performing arts, and traditional knowledge.
To take the case of handicrafts in particular – which include the production of items such as clothing, jewellery, storage containers, decorative objects, and other household utensils – they belong to a cultural heritage passed on from one generation to the next over the centuries and are a vital link to our history.
However, rapid technological progress and changing socioeconomic conditions have put this cultural heritage under increasing threat as people have given up handmade products in favour of easily available mass-produced goods. Here are some reasons why we should preserve our heritage and what steps we can take to support local artisans.
1. A Vital Part of Our Identity
In a fast-paced world like ours where change is the only constant, heritage anchors us. It enriches our everyday lives and lays the foundation for culturally vibrant communities. It also gives traditional craftsmen a source of income and helps them face uncertainties brought on by forces like globalization and industrialization.
2. Promoting Respect for Diversity
Heritage offers a rich source of beauty, encourages critical thinking, and brings together people in a dialogue from different countries – thus leading to mutual respect for creativity and diversity. It helps us to accept multiple, often conflicting, worldviews and as a result, contributes towards the building of more inclusive and diverse societies.
3. Supporting Indigenous Workers and Protecting Traditional Knowledge
According to UNESCO, traditional craftsmanship is “perhaps the most tangible manifestation of intangible cultural heritage” and needs to be protected. When we choose handcrafted items over mass-produced goods, artisans can continue practicing their art and pass on their skills and traditions to other members of their community.
Industrialization and globalization pose a threat to the survival of this part of our cultural heritage and a potential loss would greatly diminish our cultural identity, part of what makes us who we are. The diversity of cultural heritage is what lies at the heart of our civilization, and we need to do our best to cherish and preserve it.