©Vishani Ragobeer / UNESCO Youth Eyes on the Silk Roads
Phagwah, as it is called in Guyana, or Holi, as it is known better throughout the world, is the Hindi festival of colours. Despite it being a religious festival, persons from all walks of life in Guyana's multi-ethnic society celebrate this.
The Young Scholars on the Silk Roads interview series seeks to empower young people, by giving youth a platform from which to transmit their voices. Via this series young scholars hailing from different countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia will be interviewed to share their research and reflections on the ancient Silk Roads.
Kayshell is a 23-year old Guyanese national currently living in Beijing, China, and pursuing her degree in clinical medicine at the Peking University Health Science Centre. A young woman who aspires to contribute to the development of healthcare, not only in her beautiful country of Guyana, but also anywhere in the world where she believes her skills can be used. In her spare time Kayshell is also the Vice President of the Peking University Africa Students Association.
What do the Silk Roads mean to you?
Kayshell: In my understanding, the Silk Roads are a network of trade routes set up across Eurasia and Northern Africa. As a system, they were not limited to the trade of silk but extended to many other things, in a system that connected peoples through culture.
Do the Silk Roads hold value today?
They are still used as a blueprint for exchange models between various regions today. There are newer, innovative versions that have moved beyond the geographically confined overland trade structures to a model that extends across oceans and seas, more comparable to the maritime Silk Roads.
What does the concept of common cultural heritage mean to you?
To me, cultural heritage is the legacy of the tangible and intangible contributions that a group has inherited from previous generations. I believe that shared cultural heritage is a by-product of the mass movement of peoples from their original dwelling place due to exploration or economic opportunity.
The concept of common cultural heritage is one that is no stranger to me as a Guyanese. Guyana’s history, including the enslavement of Africans and the indentured labour of Indians, Chinese and Portuguese people, produced great evidence of common intersections of a number of cultures.
This is highlighted interestingly in our food, which is a fusion representing a melting pot of different peoples. Guyanese food embodies a fusion of African creole foods, Indian curries and roti and the cuisine of our indigenous peoples, which includes cured meat.
And how do you understand intercultural dialogue?
It goes without saying that in Guyana intercultural dialogue is of great importance. Effective intercultural dialogue is a vital skill for development, peace and security. Guyana is commonly referred to as the ‘land of six peoples’, with its makeup comprising African, Amerindian, Indian, Portuguese, Chinese and European groups. Beyond simply being aware of the differences among our cultures, being able to communicate between cultures help us enormously to forge better relations and better cross-community efforts.
How can young people get more involved in activities relating to the silk roads?
Well let me answer your question with one of my own. How can organisations help young people get more involved in activities relating to the Silk Roads?
Take Guyana for instance. Although Guyana’s geographical location is not in close proximity to the original trade route of Silk, I believe that in the 21st century organizations that work towards youth development and global awareness should not have geographical restrictions. Instead, they should have an openness for participation and idea sharing among youth leaders across the world.
Similarly, I believe that in order to focus on intercultural dialogue, there can be exchange programs set up between countries existing on the original Silk Roads and those that are not. Youth can be involved in conferences and forums where development ideas can be discussed and youth policies created for national development.
The UNESCO Silk Roads Online Platform creates a space for education and exchange of culture, history, and networking opportunities. I believe that this is a great initiative since it utilizes technology to build bridges and understanding of the Silk Roads. The goal moving forward for all organisations must be to provide an easy and useful way for young people to learn about and contribute to Silk Roads inter-cultural dialogue.
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