Pacific come together to revitalize indigenous architecture & building skills

Pacific delegates with members of the diplomatic corp and MESC officials at the meetings opening at the Tradition Resort

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA: TUESDAY 04 NOVEMBER 2014: Representatives for six Pacific countries are gathered in Apia this week to work out a platform for regional commitment to revive and preserve the traditional building and architectural skills.

“The workshop will explore traditional architecture and building skills of Cook Island, Fiji, Tonga, Niue, New Zealand (Maori) and Samoa,” said the Head of the UNESCO office for Pacific Sates, Mr. Etienne Clement.

The workshop also gives the participants the chance to explore the traditional architecture work of China and Japan.

“It will address challenges and opportunities for the revitalization of indigenous architecture as well as the knowledge and skills that are necessary for their construction,” said Clement.

He noted the importance and significant of traditional buildings or “fale” in the traditions and culture of certain countries.

“The traditional meeting houses in the Pacific have been the centre for village governance and a place for community life,” said Clement.

And there is a broad range of skills needed in constructing these unique architectural works.

He also touched on the interaction of traditional and modern techniques not only in buildings but culture.

He believes that traditional skills have a place in the modern society.

“Tourists and visitors often prefer staying at beach fale’s done in the traditional style with thatched roofs,” said Clement.

“These indigenous architecture also demonstrate adaptation and resilience to environmental hazards,” he said.

However, the rapid disappearance of traditional architecture is one of the main reasons behind this week long workshop.

Clement said the rapid disappearance of the traditional architectural skills is due to the lack of understanding of their value as cultural heritage and tourism assets in our modern world.

Added to that is the lack of resources that would enable Governments and civil society to take concerted actions for the preservation and transmission of this important heritage.

For fear that the next generation will miss out on this important aspect of Samoan culture, UNESCO published a book called The Samoa Fale 20 years ago to safeguard the information for the next generations.

The Minister of Education and Culture, Magele Mauiliu Magele officiated at the opening of the workshop.

He too noted the importance of the workshop and hopes a strategic plan or platform to safeguard traditional skills could be reached by the end of the workshop.

UNESCO and the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture (MESC) and the International Training Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia Pacific Region are all behind the workshop.

Each country is presenting a paper outlining their current status regarding traditional architecture and skills and participants will also have a tour and witness the building of a Samoan fale as part of the programme.