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“SAARC Cultural Centre promotes cultural cooperation in the South Asian Region” -Director Samarasinghe

Dr Srimal Fernando – Asia Correspondent for Foreign Exchange - The Diplomatic Society engages Mr. G.L.W. Samarasinghe Director, SAARC Cultural Center in his office in Colombo. Also speaking with Ms. Soundarie David Rodrigo Deputy Director Programme, a discussion was centered around regional and international cultural cooperation, the unique initiative taken by SAARC Cultural Center to develop the Cultural Heritage within the South Asian countries.

Srimal Fernando: What role does the SAARC Cultural Center Colombo Office play in the conservation and management of cultural heritage in the South Asian region?

Director: All the programmes implemented by the SAARC Cultural Centre have been based on four main concepts, which are interconnected.

i.    Promotion of all forms of arts in the South Asian Region,
ii.    Cultural cooperation among Member States of the region,
iii.    Establish linkages between cultures of South Asia,
iv.    Reinforcing and projecting distinctive cultures of South Asia.

Based on these concepts, the Centre has introduced a five-year programme consisting of thirteen subject areas that includes conservation and management of the cultural heritage of the South Asia. For example, we have proposed to establish a SAARC Heritage Committee to deal with World Heritage Sites in the region.  Under this we are going to find solutions for the regional issues related to World Heritage Sites.  In this respect the Centre could direct all Member States to develop management plans and introduce a proper system to get more benefit for the countries.

SF: What is your opinion, from the point of view as the Director SAARC Cultural Center, about the state of South Asia’s culture at the moment?

Director: South Asian countries represent one of the most diverse regions of the world rich in both tangible and intangible cultural heritage.  It has age-old rich traditions and indigenous knowledge, which directs and binds them together to live in peace and harmony for generations to come.  With some of the elements rushed through the open market economy, some of the rich traditions have been threatened and some of them have been disappeared.  Anyway we still have rich and valuable cultures in the Member States that can be used for the benefit of the people living in the region.  Even now the South Asian region is one of the regions having rich and distinctive cultures which could create a good discipline as a development strategy in Member States.

SF:  Why is it necessary to support the SAARC Cultural Center?

Director: Culture is one of the leading subjects having very effective elements that will directly help people in the countries to lead their development strategies.  So the SAARC Cultural Centre is totally engaged in implementing programmes to promote culture in South Asian countries.  That is why it is necessary to help SAARC Cultural Centre to achieve such a goal.

SF: What are the challenges that SAARC Cultural Center is facing at the moment?

Director: As most other organizations, SAARC Cultural Centre also has challenges to face.  Political unrest in some of the Member States is one of the challenges we are facing at the moment. We could not implement some of our programmes in some of the Member States because of the political unrest in those countries. Poor participation from Member States for some of the programmes implemented by the SAARC Cultural Centre is also a big challenge we have faced.  When we invited Member States to send 10-15 artists at a time for a programme, some Member States are not in a position to send such a big number of artists at once because of the high rate of airfare.  This has affected some of the programmes resulting in poor participation.

SF: How can countries, individuals and Non governmental organizations help to develop SAARC Cultural Center?

Director: Anyone can help SAARC Cultural Centre in its development by providing financial support and also providing resource persons for the programmes as and when it is needed.

SF: Can you name some of the projects that SAARC Cultural Center have sponsored and have taken off?

Director:  There are several programmes we have implemented within the last 2 years.

-     Symposium on Shared Heritage of Sculpture and Decorative Arts in South Asia,
-    Seminar on Rituals and Ethics and Societal Stability in the SAARC region,
-    Web Portal on SAARC Cultural Heritage,
-    Cultural Festival – Symposium on Folkdances in the SAARC Region in                Bangladesh,
-    Film Festival – Best Feature Film in the SAARC region,
-    Artists Camp and Exhibition,
-    Research on Diminishing Cultures in SAARC Member States,
-    Research on Diasporic Cultures in the SAARC Region in 18th to 20th  Century
     SAARC Journal,
-    SAARC Collection of Contemporary Short Stories,
-    SAARC Collections of Poems,
-    Cultural Festival, Colombo and Galle,
-    Archaeology of Buddhism – Recent Discoveries in South Asia.

SF: The main function of the SAARC Cultural Center is to encourage regional cultural cooperation in the South Asian countries.  What is your position on the cultural cooperation between the SAARC countries and the African countries?

Director: So far, we do not have any attempt made to create linkage between any of the countries outside.  In our five year programme, we have indicated to have linkages between other organizations and other countries.  We wish to create linkages between other countries like African Countries as well in the future for the development of the culture in the region.  That sort of a programme will mutually be helpful for both parties.





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