Arts, culture and heritage make considerable and necessary contributions to the well-being of communities.
Arts, culture and heritage are powerful tools to engage communities in various change levels. The arts and culture are a means of public dialogue and creative learning. They provide a robust community mobilization and activism tool and help build community capacity and leadership.
Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition goes a step further, defining culture as shared patterns of behaviours and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding learned by socialization. Thus, it can be seen as the growth of a group identity fostered by social patterns unique to the group.
Heritage is the full range of our inherited traditions, monuments, objects, and culture. Most important, it is the range of contemporary activities, meanings, and behaviours that we draw from them. Heritage is tangible and intangible. Our ideas and memories (songs, recipes, language, dances, and many other elements of who we are and how we identify ourselves) are as important as historical buildings and archaeological sites.
Canada and Sierra Leone have a deep cultural heritage connection with far-reaching effects. The monuments and art treasures from this connection make a shared past visible and must strengthen inter-cultural ties. This cultural heritage is essential to the identity of our society. It should reinforce cultural and historical self-awareness in our communities.
As a Sierra Leonean-Canadian, I believe our heritage is essential to the present we live in and the future we will build.
Every year since 2017, the Sierra Leonean community of British Columbia (SLCBC) organizes Sierra Leone Cultural Heritage Day. This unique event features various cultural dancers, storytelling, the talking drum, musical performances, games, delicious African food & many more. It is an excellent opportunity to spend an evening with the larger African community and a platform to grow our roots, our shared heritage, and histories in all forms and create a sense of belonging.
This year, and every year, I invite you to come and discover a rich heritage connection between Canada and Sierra Leone that you may not know of. Your presence will be greatly appreciated and will help to emphasize the vital message of community building, African unity and multiculturalism.
By Albert Mackoty