Strengthening Culture and Conservation Through Intangible Heritage and Performing Arts: The “Dance for the Earth and for Her Peoples” Initiative

Project Contributor: Robert Wild

credit: Robert Wild

A dance of the Bambuti Community of Semliki Forest, Western Uganda. Credit: Robert Wild

The concept for the “Dance for the Earth and for Her Peoples” initiative originated at the 2003 World Parks Congress and has been taken forward by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP) through the Theme on Indigenous and Local Communities, Equity and Protected Areas (TILCEPA) and the IUCN Task Force on the Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas (CSVPA. The objective of this initiative is to explore the role of community performing arts in strengthening the conservation of biocultural diversity, especially in Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs).

Intangible heritage and the performing arts are a strong force in social cohesion and intergenerational transmission of cultural knowledge. Many traditional dances, for example, have strong links to nature and landscape, as they borrow movements from animals, express seasonal and annual cycles, and act out stories related to nature. The Dance for the Earth initiative aims to test the use of the performing arts as a tool for promoting the conservation of biocultural diversity at a representative selection of protected areas around the globe; build a network of institutions, organizations and individuals interested in the initiative; develop and fund a number of dance-related projects at protected areas; collect, record, and conserve “earth dances” from different cultures around the globe. Through dance and drama, communities strengthen the links between conservation of nature and the maintenance of culture, and community groups tell their stories and celebrate their efforts to conserve their traditional lands and enhance sustainable livelihoods. The initiative is spearheaded by a diverse international network, predominantly made up of conservation professionals who have direct contact and work with community groups in different parts of the world. As such, it has been developed in a participatory way, and a number of local communities have enthusiastically taken up the idea.

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