Elpidio V. Peria
9 Nov 2014

Choreographers from all over SOCSARGEN met yesterday in Gen. Santos City to craft the first iteration of what they consider their guidelines for use in guiding their practice of their craft in producing choreography that use elements of traditional cultural heritage of the indigenous peoples of SOCSARGEN during festivals that will henceforth be organized by schools and local government units in the region.

Organized by the Biodiversity, Innovation, Trade and Society (BITS) Policy Center, Inc., a policy think-tank based in General Santos City, the activity is a continuation of its efforts to raise the awareness of artists and creative specialists on their rights vis-à-vis the existing copyright laws and the rights of indigenous peoples under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act.

This effort of the Center is similar to what was done by the Third World Network and Tebtebba Foundation back in October 2010 when indigenous artists and development workers formulated the Benguet Guidelines Using Cultural Heritage in Festivals which laid down specific tasks and obligations when using traditional cultural heritage in festivals in the Cordillera Region.

In March 2012, BITS Policy Center, Inc organized the first-ever copyright workshop for artists and followed it with a another round of workshop that also explored the interface of artists’ freedom to create and the indigenous peoples’ right to their cultural heritage.

In the early part of this year, BITS Policy Center engaged groups of choreographers and local education and public officials involved in preparations for Kalilangan 2014 to a discussion of how to protect the rights of choreographers to their freedom to create, to the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to their free and prior informed consent and right to cultural integrity, especially when various artifacts or elements of cultural heritage are used in festivals such as the Kalilangan 2014 and similar such festivals in the future.

Part of the discussion went to an exchange of views what is authentic. To some members of the community, they asserted that what is authentic are those that come from them and is cleared by them for distribution. The artists however look at authenticity from the aspect of creation and that if the artist had a clear idea of what it wants to create and has gone out of his or her way to provide his or her own view of what that item of cultural heritage should be, then it should be authentic.

The issue of authenticity relates to the over-all question of what forms of expression are valid and truly reflective of the situation of the community.
The formulation of the guidelines which should serve as a self-regulatory measure to guide artists and indigenous peoples as to what is proper and is truly respectful of the rights of indigenous peoples to their right to free and prior informed consent and integrity of their cultural heritage is seen as a positive effort to minimize the tension, uncertainty and potential misunderstandings as to the extent and limits of these rights. Hopefully, once institutionalized, it will be facilitated and enforced so as to make harmonious the relationships among the communities and groups involved and to further hasten the artistic exploration of the rich cultural heritage of the region.

The draft guidelines, which this group of choreographers hope to present later with other groups of choreographers by the end of this year or early next year contained some guideposts or reminders on the following concerns raised during the workshop :

• Interpretation of Criteria and Mechanics of Festival Contests

• Conflicts between Choreographers due to Vested Interests

• Bad gestures/attitudes of choreographers towards their performers

• Fusion of modern arts with traditional aspects of culture

• Lack of contractual arrangements between the choreographer and the organizer

• Setting of professional fees

• Limited knowledge of choreographers

• Limited budget for productions

• Differing interpretations from the cultural masters

• Resistance of elders in sharing their ideas

• Lack of assistance or budget to choreographers, including support to defray cost of costumes

• Overly aggressive up-and-coming choreographers

• Use of inappropriate music

• Difficulty in understanding what’s in the Local Government Code and other applicable laws

• Attitude of indigenous artists to defer or put themselves by the side

• Discomfort in living with a fellow not having the same culture, including subjectivity of the organizer

• Respect for diversity of cultures


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