Arts & CultureLIFESTYLE

Cultural Mapping

By Gisele Soo

It’s important to understand the distinctive characters of the place and people, how it functions through cultural mapping,” said Chen Yoke Pin, Senior Manager for Arts-Ed during a talk at PORT (People of Remarkable Talent) recently. Arts-Ed is a non-profit organisation based in Penang.

The organisation focuses on arts’ themes and culture where art is employed as a tool to encourage the community’s participation in learning local issues. Community-based projects are aimed primarily at children and youth to promote cultural sustainability and sense of place.

“Working with the community takes a lot of time and effort,” she added. As some projects may take up to two years or more, Arts-Ed works closely with artists and cultural workers in order to develop creative workshops for the participants. For the past 15 years, they have been working with kids as young as eight and seniors above 80.

One of the highlights of her talk was cultural mapping which requires understanding from various dimensions including the physical, the social and the economic dimension of a place.

What is cultural mapping and how does it work?

It is an assessment of the cultural DNA of a place. To ensure the effectiveness of a project, a systematic approach is essential, such as identifying tangible and intangible assets and resources. This can be handy to the planner to safeguard the distinct culture and natural resources and assets of the place.

Why do we need maps?

Chen also mentioned that people claim certain things to be important and that new plans have been constructed without the provision of any concrete evidence. Therefore, a map is vital as it gives everyone a chance to understand the cultural context and character of the site as well as unravel the needs and challenges related to the site and, most importantly, to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in relation to the past and present. With the knowledge in hand, suitable policies can be implemented. “It’s not about having all the data but the data we need is important,” she said.

Who maps?

The maps we see on brochures or pamphlets are not necessarily drawn by architects but the people who reside in the area, such as kids, young adults or senior citizens. Children will be taught the basics of workshop skills, research and interview techniques and Photoshop skills, photo editing and how to save or transfer images.

Chen Yoke Pin is a Mass Communication graduate and has been working for Arts-Ed the past 14 years. Arts-Ed specialises in community-based arts and culture education for the younger generation.

For more information, visit their website: https://www.arts-ed.my/ They can be contacted at 04 263 3471.

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