As we crisscrossed the globe to find you fresh perspectives for TED2013 in our worldwide Talent Search, a common theme emerged: cultural heritage in the 21st century. The tangible, intangible and natural elements that define our ways of life touch every aspect of our existence — from language to landscapes to religion to architecture. And they are in constant flux, with global cultural exchanges on the rise as our world becomes more interconnected. Below, unique narratives from Talent Search speakers about navigating the tensions between modernity and tradition in an ever-globalizing world.
Ihsan Fethi: Iraq’s destroyed cultural heritage
“Cultural destruction is a crime against humanity,” argues Ihsan Fethi, an Iraqi architectural conservationist. In this talk, he provides examples of the “cultural suicide” that Iraqis are committing by demolishing historical architectural gems in cities all over the country.
Chen Xi Huang: The ancient art of hand puppetry
The ancient Chinese art of hand puppetry is alive and well in the capable hands of Chen Xi Huang, an 82-year-old puppet master. The art form is slowly falling out of practice, but a small part of this cultural heritage is now preserved in this explanation and performance.
Yasser Bahjatt: How Arab sci-fi could dream a better future
If you want to advance science, you need to have a strong sci-fi culture. Computer engineer Yasser Bahjatt is creating an open platform for sci-fi writers and artists in the Arab world to collaborate in creating 21st-century sci-fi to revitalize the scientific and literary culture that has flourished throughout the course of humanity.
Joe McPherson: The meteoric rise of Korean food
Did you know that there 167 documented types of kimchi? McPherson founded the website ZenKimchi, a love letter to the food, and in this talk explains why it took Korean cuisine time to boom in popularity around the globe. His observation: that the American palate has had to adapt to Korean food, instead of the other way around.
Majede Najar: Why I wear a hijab
“I am a proud hijabi,” proclaims Majede Najar in this talk from TED@Vancouver. This 16-year-old Iranian-Canadian describes the way she navigates her multiple identities — religious, cultural, ethnic — in her life in Candada.
Jiaojiao Chen: Forgotten stories from China’s history
Photographer and storyteller Jiaojiao Chen is preserving the ordinary stories of daily life in a country that “selectively documents parts of its history.” By collecting photos, objects and stories from average Chinese citizens, she hopes to capture moments of China’s rich history and culture that are all-too-easily forgotten.
Gabriel Otsuka: An 11-year-old plays classical Brazilian piano
Since learning to play the piano at age 7, Gabriel Otsuka has had great reverence for classical Brazilian technique. In this talk, he performs several of his favorite pieces.
Ira Trivedi: The case for arranged marriages
Indian novelist Ira Trivedi notes that a huge cultural shift has taken place in India, with the older generation espousing traditional arranged marriage and a younger generation idealizing love. In this talk, she talks about the hidden costs of the shift. While she once considered arranged marriage archaic, she now sees it an option.
Azzam Alwash: Lessons from Iraq’s beautiful marshes
Azzam Alwash calls for a “blue revolution” in the wake of the Arab Spring: for Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey to collaborate across boundaries to manage water resources of the Tigris and Euphrates river. Iraq’s marshes — commonly considered the cradle of civilization — are being destroyed, and the citizens of these countries must come together to protect humanity’s environmental heritage.
Yunhe Liu: Expression through nunchaku
Tradition and modernity come together in Yunhe Liu’s nunchaku performance that captures the essence of the ancient art while incorporating contemporary freedom and creativity.
Dong Woo Jang (age 14): Crafting the perfect bow
Dong Woo Jang is an 8th grader in Seoul, Korea, who discovered an unusual piece of bamboo in his neighborhood. The discovery led to a fascination with archaic Korean bows, a long lost art.
Check out more wonderful playlists from the TED Talent Search. Rating of these talks will close on August 31, also known as tomorrow.
Photo: Liz Jacobs