By Simone Toji
In being simultaneously an official responsible for the national intangible cultural heritage policy in São Paulo/ Brazil and a researcher of the UNESCO frictions project, some activities I get involved may gain unexpected developments.
Because one of the main questions in the project refers to the problem of scales, I began by observing the intangible cultural heritage policies at the municipal and state level in São Paulo.
In Brazil, cities and states are autonomous bodies that together with the federal government compose the Federative Republic of Brazil. In this way, cities and states have their own executive, legislative and legal branches, which are concurrent to and, to a certain extent, independent from the federal government.
In the case of the intangible cultural heritage, cities and states in Brazil are creating their own intangible cultural heritage initiatives.
Historically, the Brazilian federal government, through its Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (IPHAN), was the first to establish an intangible cultural heritage policy with national scope in 2000. Since then, numerous cities and states in Brazil have been tailoring their own local and regional policies.
The city of São Paulo and the state of São Paulo are examples of this tendency. Both of them approved legislation towards intangible cultural heritage in 2007 and 2011 respectively.
In order to understand how intangible cultural heritage policies were being developed at the state and municipal levels, I requested access to materials and files at the organisations appointed to implement the mentioned policies. The Departamento do Patrimônio Histórico (DPH) works on the municipal level, while the Unidade de Preservação do Patrimônio Histórico (UPPH), on the state one.
My visits to learn from the documents of these two organisations raised the interest from DPH’s and UPPH’s directors and officials for establishing a partnership with IPHAN, as I am an IPHAN’s civil servant too. Staff from both organisations believes that IPHAN has a more consolidated intangible cultural heritage policy and assume that they can gain expertise from IPHAN’s experience.
For IPHAN, this can be an opportunity to discuss cultural heritage policies as a system of collaboration and possible distribution of responsibilities in the field of intangible cultural heritage governance.
The convergence of all these interests led to the installation of a work group on intangible cultural heritage in São Paulo on the 3rd of August 2017 under an agreement between IPHAN, DPH and UPPH, comprising officials from the three organisations.
This repercussion provides some food for thought. An UNESCO frictions project’s research activity – gathering documentation – resulted in the administrative decision of establishing collaboration between the three governmental organisations responsible for intangible cultural heritage policies at different levels in the national governance scale. As I am one of the appointed officials to participate in the work group as IPHAN representative, being at the same time a researcher in the UNESCO frictions project as well, some questions emerge:
- Can my research abilities contribute to provide good and feasible proposals for the work group?
- Can the experiences at the work group offer opportunities to observe phenomena on the topic of scales that otherwise would not be available?
- At what points are the positions of official and researcher convergent or divergent?
- Can my colleagues in the work group become research partners?
These will be some interrogations to be faced from now on by me and the work group.
By Morena Salama and Natalia Brayner
This panel will be held on June 21st , in Ouro Preto (Minas Gerais, Brazil) during the Seminar “ Intangible Cultural Heritage – impacts and repercussions from the recognition”, organized by IPHAN, The National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage. This seminar is part of the 50th Edition of Winter Festival of Ouro Preto. The panel will explore the implementation of safeguarding measures for intangible elements declared as national cultural heritage. Having in mind the measures carried out by IPHAN from 2004 to 2014, Salama will present the construction, application and the findings of the methodology for the evaluation and monitoring of the safeguarding processes set after an element is recognized as national cultural heritage.
For more information and the Seminar Programme (in Portuguese): http://festivaldeinverno.feop.com.br/evento/206
IPHAN, the Brazilian National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage, is linked to such ministry and also was affected by the political changes. Temer nominated a new president who belonged to the institution and who manage to stay in power dispite the successive changes of ministers. But the institution suffered a drastic cut in its annual budget. Because of that many processes for the safeguarding of ICH, including the researches for the recognition of intangible elements as National Cultural Heritage, have been suspended, waiting IPHAN to finally have financial means to carry on with their execution.
I started my fieldwork in this context of institutional precarity, just the day after the last minister of culture had renounced. My previous experience as UNESCO consultant for IPHAN, fortunately, helped me to have access to IPHAN´s authorities, internal procedures, decisions and data.
By returning to the institution after long period apart, my first impression was that its civil servants are carrying on with their daily duties, saying to themselves that they are not working for Temer, but for the protection of Brazilian cultural heritage in itself. For them, now more than ever, the Brazilian safeguarding policy is not a “government” policy, but rather a “state” policy. That is to say, a policy which is not subjected to governmental fluctuations.
On the other hand, there are IPHAN authorities, who were nominated with the ascension of Temer. As far as I can see, they are giving continuity to the programmes created by the previous governments, reinforcing such believe. The political changes was taken by these authorities as an opportunity to leave their mark on the institution and on the Brazilian heritage regime. A big challenge considering the budget cuts, the constant need to prove their legitimacy and efficiency as public authorities, and the fear that tomorrow a new governmental change might take place.
Since my first step in the institution I notice that the sensation of instability was dominant, making me to feel impelled to offer my help in order to have, at least, a case to follow.
The result was me getting in charge of setting up the nomination process of Bumba-Meu-Boi (Bumba My Ox) to the Representative List of the ICH Convention together with a civil servant from IPHAN’s local office. This considering that back in 2012, one year after the Boi became National Cultural Heritage, its community requested IPHAN to prepare such nomination. But, only now that the institution had the “political conditions” to proceed with it. According to the insitution, at that time, other elements were already on the queue and had the priority. Besides, in the Boi case, the focus should be on the implementation of a participative safeguarding process.
Surprisingly, in the same week an evidence that the political forces were coinciding in favour of the Boi nomination came through with the organization of two solemn session to pay tribute to the Bumba-Meu-Boi. One made by the local parliament of São Luis of Maranhão, and the other by the Congress in Brasília. In the last event IPHAN´s president announced the preparation of the nomination of the Bumba-Meu-Boi, opening the 2017 festivities of June, which traditionally in São Luis, and in many other parts of the country, are made with hundreds presentations of different types of Boi.
These coincidences help me to overcome the challenge of having a case to study in such context, but left me with another task: to work with and to reflect upon my double role as researcher and hands-on-heritage-maker.
While I am studying the documents produced for the national recognition of Boi as National Cultural Heritage (photo above), which in Brazil must precede the nominations to UNESCO’s Lists, I am asking myself how to prepare this nomination with the widest posible participation of Boi communities – a requirement of the ICH Convention. Will the Boi communities want and thus be able to find consensus in order to answer all the questions of the nomination forms? Will they just focus on the discussion and drafting of a safeguarding plan? Will they take a long time to do it? And the people involved, are they representative of all segments of the concerned communities? Will these different segments look for a unity or compete with each other? If so, will they diverge over which issues?
Considering this special political context, will this participative perspective benefit the political forces in place? Will it give them more legitimacy?
But then, vested with my other role, I ask myself if the above questions are only an assessment of the efficacy of the participative call of the ICH Convention? Or, if they are just a reflection of my own understanding of community participation? In that case, is my view different from IPHAN and the Boi communities ones? If so which view will prevail in practice?
And what if Temer falls? Will IPHAN continue with this nomination ? If heritage-making is intrinsically political, is it possible to happen even when political forces are discredited and struggling to keep in power?