[(Re)Defining Culture: Engaging urban Fijian youth in sustainable employment opportunities in the cultural heritage sector]
In 2020, Dr Karen Jacobs was awarded a research grant designed with the principle of empowering Fiji’s urban youth in the arts and cultural heritage sector. The 21-month project is funded by the British Academy’s Youth Futures Programme, supported by the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund. The core project team, which includes SRU-based Postdoctoral Research Associate Dr Katrina Talei Igglesden, is diverse and interdisciplinary and is reflected in the partnering institutions: Sainsbury Research Unit (University of East Anglia), Pacific Community (SPC), School of Marine Studies (University of the South Pacific), Fiji Museum and VOU Dance Fiji.
A youth-driven project, it aims to identify through partnering with urban youth communities how Fiji’s diverse youth both experience and perceive ‘culture’ and how arts and cultural heritage organisations can engage and champion youth participation. A main objective is to foster a sense amongst youth communities that the creative industry in Fiji can form a viable and sustainable profession and that cultural and natural heritage and its management does not only have to conform to the tourist expectations that do not appear to represent the reality of the nation’s culturally diverse urban youth.
By making the cultural heritage sector aware of youth perceptions, youth can begin to acknowledge cultural heritage institutions as a sustainable employment sector and, in turn, the cultural heritage sector will begin to acknowledge the value of having youth employed in their organisations.
Following the UN’s definition of youth being 15-24 years of age, and although mindful of Fiji’s wider categorisation of youth, we anticipate working mostly with urban-based young adults aged 18-24 and will forefront equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the research, with particular consideration being paid to female-identifying youth.
A series of workshops and talanoa sessions with youth will form the core participatory research of the project, alongside 16 paid youth work placements in 3 different areas of the arts and cultural heritage sector, culminating in the formation of the ‘Cultural Heritage Youth Advisory Group’. This group will be youth-led, -organised and -driven, and work towards contributing to arts and cultural heritage policy making and sharing their experiences and knowledge with their peers.
A collaborative and inclusive methodology lies at the basis of this project and it envisages to disseminate information through interactive workshops, artistic displays, performances and project-created resources (such as publications), helping to better engage youth understanding and sharing of their urban and lived experience.