Projects and activities on intangible heritage in which UNESCO is involved
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Action Plan for the Safeguarding of Baul Songs12-2008/10-2010, Bangladesh
- Baul songs
- © Bangladesh National Commission for UNESCO
The Bauls are minstrels who travel from village to village, earning their living by singing. Their music, poetry and way of life have profoundly influenced Bengali culture. Bauls do not identify themselves with any organized religion nor with the caste system. They emphasize the importance of the human body as the place where God resides.
While Bauls are scattered all over the country as well as in west Bengal (India), the project concentrates on the Baul community from the Kushtia region where a great Baul Guru of Bengal, Lalon Shah, lived and created a tradition of intergenerational transmission of Baul songs. The project aims at ensuring the proper transmission of Baul songs through a series of workshops bringing together gurus and young Baul apprentices. Gurus, experts and scholars will study and evaluate the transmission process with a view to extend it to other regions with Baul communities. In parallel, a census of Bauls all over the country will be made to establish a register of minstrels and gurus. Meanwhile, documentation will be gathered leading to the publication of notations and recordings of Baul songs. A book on Baul songs for promotional purposes and the organization of Baul Melas (fairs) will raise awareness among the general public of the Baul heritage and of the importance of supporting its bearers.
Safeguarding of the Art of the Akyns, Kyrgyz Epic Tellers02-2005/10-2009, Kyrgyzstan
- Art of Akyns, Kyrgyz epic tellers
- © Kyrgyz National Commission for UNESCO
The pre-eminent Kyrgyz epic, the Manas trilogy, is an oral encyclopaedia of Kyrgyz social values and history. Performed at seasonal ceremonies, national holidays and other social gatherings, the Manas epic continues to inspire contemporary Kyrgyz writers and composers.
Studios for young Akyns in various regions of Kyrgyzstan will be opened, and contests among those attending the studios will be organized. A concert tour consisting of both famous Akyns and the most talented youth from Akyn studios will also be staged in two regions. The compilation and publication of a representative, concise edition of the Manas, the pre-eminent Kyrgyz epic, and its translation into Russian will be undertaken.
The tradition of tutorship and the master-apprentice method of transmitting the art of the Akyns will be revitalized. Kyrgyz scholars of epic poetry and cultural workers will be trained in state-of-the-art methods of digitization and archival management, including digital archives. The project intends to renew and promote interest in the art of the Akyns in Kyrgyzstan and abroad and ultimately recover the prestige of being an Akyn.
- Summary description of the project (English)
Action Plan for the Safeguarding and promotion of the Drametse Ngacham10-2006/08-2009, Bhutan
- Mask dance of the drums from Drametse
- © Institut of Language and Cultural Stiudies, Bhutan
The Drametse festival, held in honour of a Buddhist guru, is attended by people from Drametse as well as neighbouring villages. The highlight of this festival is the Drametse gacham, a sacred mask dance, introduced in the sixteenth century and performed ever since.
The safeguarding project primarily seeks to create sustainable foundations for the transmission of skills and expertise related to the Drametse Ngacham to new generations of practitioners. It will also conduct research and collect existing knowledge and expertise concerning the choreography as well as raising awareness of the value of this tradition and the importance of safeguarding it. While the project will focus on the Drametse community, activities will also be conducted in other areas where the dance is performed. It will thus encompass activities such as training workshops for dancers (bringing together masters and dancers), teacher training and introducing the dance in schools. Other activities will include audiovisual documentation of knowledge and skills of old masters, compilation of existing documentation, as well as increasing public awareness through performances and publications.
Safeguarding the Space of Gong Culture in Dak Nong Province06-2007/07-2009, Viet Nam
- Space of gong culture
- © Institute of Culture and Information / Duong Thanh Giang
Throughout the Central Highlands of Viet Nam, Gong ensembles are part of various ceremonies and closely linked to the communities’ daily life and the cycle of the seasons. The instruments, measuring 25 to 80 centimetres, are played by men as well as women.
The main goal of this project is to safeguard the space of gong culture in one province of the Central Highlands of Viet Nam, Dak Nong Province. This project has been designed to develop a network of gong practitioners and enthusiasts and to support preservation and promotion of the Central Highland’s gong performance tradition in the actual cultural context where it was born and has been maintained in social life until today. The project will directly benefit the artisans, artists, the devoted people and caretakers who have greatly contributed to the safeguarding of the gong heritage, but will also benefit the broader Vietnamese people. By mobilizing all potential sectors from society, the project seeks to provide the foundations for transmitting the skills of playing and especially of tuning gongs to young generations, and to promote awareness of the significance of intangible cultural heritage not only at the local level, but also at the national level. It will include a systematic inventory of the practitioners of gong tuning and performance and establish a policy of recognition and valorization of older master artists.
The project’s goals are to:
- safeguard gong culture in the present social situation in which modernization and globalization are rapidly occurring, and young people’s aesthetic taste has increasingly been deflected from traditional heritage;
- assist ICH custodians and practitioners in their efforts to safeguard and transmit this heritage to future generations and to target young audiences and potential performers;
- raise the awareness of young people in the local community of the important role they should have locally and nationally in Vietnamese society at large by ensuring the conservation and transmission of the know–how of gong tuning and performing ;
- identify best practices in implementing the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of the ICH , in respect of community involvement.
Indigenous Language Revitalization and Preservation in Melanesia and the Pacific (Phase II)01-2006/05-2009, Papua New Guinea - Solomon Islands - Vanuatu
A great number of Melanesian languages are in danger of disappearing due to the decrease in use and the lack of orthographies of these languages. The project was designed to preserve and revitalize languages without written forms in three Melanesian countries, i.e. Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
The objectives of the safeguarding project are to:
- Encourage local communities to value their languages as an important aspect of intangible heritage;
- Encourage local initiatives and efforts to ensure maintenance of cultural identity through linguistic programs;
- Provide linguistic data for endangered languages as a basis for preparing linguistic material for literacy classes and basic education;
- Provide means and tools to local communities, particularly to children and youth, to learn and maintain their languages;
- Enhance local capacities (train students, field workers and community activists) in language documentation.
The main activities include:
- Train students of linguistics and community field workers to conduct fieldwork for collecting and analyzing linguistic data;
- Conduct linguistic surveys to document Melanesian languages in danger;
- Develop teaching material in the countries based in the collected data for each language (word lists, orthography, primers, grammar sketches, etc.).
Safeguarding of Nha nhac, Vietnamese Court Music01-2005/03-2009, Viet Nam
- Nha Nhac, Vietnamese court music
- © Hue Monument Conservation Centre
An essential part of royal ceremonies, court music was a means of communicating with and paying tribute to the gods and kings as well as transmitting knowledge about nature and the universe. This musical tradition has been kept alive by the few surviving former court musicians.
The project includes documentation as well as a systematic inventory of all practitioners of Nha nhac. Through the organization of workshops, it also seeks to provide sustainable foundations for the transmission of skills to the younger generations.
The project is expected to enhance the capacity of the technical staff dealing with surveying and documentation. It will also enable the development of a legal framework for the protection of aging artists. The publication of promotional documentations, the revitalization of old repertories and the reproduction of traditional costumes and musical instruments will all contribute to raising awareness regarding the significance of this cultural expression.
Safeguarding of Lakalaka, Sung Speeches with Choreographed Movements01-2005/12-2008, Tonga
- Lakalaka, dances and sung speeches of Tonga
- © Tongan Traditions Committee
A blend of dances, recitations, songs and music, the Lakalaka involves up to several hundred people aligned in rows dancing in rapid and energetic movements. Practised by communities throughout the islands, it features themes related to Tongan history, legends, values and social structures.
The objectives of the safeguarding project are to:
- Document and record information and knowledge about Lakalaka and its practitioners;
- Enhance knowledge, skills and appreciation of Lakalaka traditions, especially among younger generations;
- Raise awareness among the Tongan population and internationally about the importance of safeguarding Lakalaka.
The main activities include:
- Undertake nation-wide field research to record Lakalaka and its practitioners;
- Establish and update a database on Lakalaka and its recognized practitioners;
- Publish a book of Lakalaka texts as an outcome of oral history and archival research;
- Organize capacity building activities such as youth competitions and festivals;
- Promote and safeguard Lakalaka traditions to culminate during the Coronation of George Tupou Von on 1st August 2008.
Action plan for the safeguarding of the Royal Ballet11-2005/12-2008, Cambodia
- Danseuses effectuant des mouvements de main caractéristiques
- © Ministère de la Culture et des Beaux-Arts
Graceful hand gestures, elaborate choreography and stunning costumes distinguish the Khmer classical dance. This project has been designed to ensure the safeguarding of the Khmer Royal Ballet and to support the preservation and promotion of this cultural expression.
The project seeks to provide sustainable foundations for the transmission of skills to the younger generations and to promote awareness of the value of – as well as of the importance to safeguard - this intangible cultural heritage among the Cambodian community. Therefore, the action plan focuses on several priorities including the capacity building for Cambodian staff in the field of research and project management, documentation of knowledge and skills from old masters to prevent its loss, improvement of professionals’ expertise and facilities, advance training workshops for dancers, training of teachers, increasing public awareness through performances.
The project activities include four components:
- Research and documentation;
- Development of education programme for both professionals and amateurs;
- Support for the development of the national troupe;
- Facilitation of public access to Royal Ballet performances.
Establishment of a Living Human Treasures system in the Kingdom of Cambodia06-2005/12-2008, Cambodia
Many elements of Cambodia’s rich living heritage are in danger of disappearing mainly due to long-lasting conflicts, the declining number of performers and the clear tendency among the younger generation to cultural influences from outside the country. In this context, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in Cambodia launched, in collaboration with UNESCO, a project for the establishment of a national system of Living Human Treasures.
This project aimed at ensuring and supporting the continuous transmission of traditional knowledge and skills from one generation to another within communities and within education institutions.
A National Working Group, created for this purpose, first developed detailed procedures including the definition of the Living Human Treasures and criteria for their selection. Field research was conducted in various provinces in order to identify masters of prioritised performing arts of Cambodia. A Commission of Experts was created, whose task is to examine the information collected on masters and to provide recommendations to the Minister of Culture and Fine Arts regarding the selection of Living Human Treasures. Once the Living Human Treasures are nominated, an official nomination ceremony takes place, and the Living Human Treasures is involved in transmission activities at the community and national levels, such as holding regular classes for young students in pagodas and organizing workshops at University.
Establishment of a National Living Human Treasures system in Fiji06-2005/10-2008, Fiji
This is a project to establish in Fiji a national Living Human Treasures system so as to provide support to bearers of traditional knowledge and skills in danger of disappearing, and to ensure their effective transmission to young people.
The objectives of the project are to:
- Establish the Living Human Treasures system in Fiji in a sustainable way and with a culturally sensitive approach;
- Formulate mechanisms to identify Living Human Treasures using a systematic approach;
- Formulate and implement a system to ensure the transmission from the Living Human Treasures to younger generations.
The main activities include:
- Develop detailed procedures for the identification of target domains of intangible cultural heritage, the definition of the Living Human Treasures, and criteria for their selection;
- Conduct field research in each province in Fiji to collect and examine information on masters;
- Organize provincial workshops to raise awareness about the system among practitioners and other stakeholders.
Safeguarding of Vanuatu Sand Drawings03-2005/07-2008, Vanuatu
- Vanuatu sand drawings
- © Vanuatu National Cultural Council
Sand drawing is a multifunctional “writing” produced on the ground, in sand, volcanic ash or clay, using one finger to draw a graceful, often symmetrical composition of geometric patterns. It serves as a means of communication among the members of some 80 ethnolinguistic groups.
The objectives of the safeguarding project are to:
- Raise awareness about the importance of the sand drawings at the community, provincial and national levels ;
- Revitalize the practice of sand drawings in tradition-bearing communities and enhance the conditions for the on-going transmission of the tradition;
- Incorporate the study of sand drawings into school curricula;
- Elaborate a national law for the protection of traditional knowledge and culture so as to safeguard sand drawings and related cultural expressions.
The main activities include:
- Identify sand drawing designs and stories that can be used in the public realm and establish a database and an Internet site dedicated to sand drawings;
- Study opportunities and requirement for introducing sand drawings into the national curriculum and develop a teacher’s guide for teaching sand drawings;
- Draft a national law for the protection of traditional knowledge and culture for nationwide consultations.
- Organize public events, such as performances, exhibitions and festivals to promote and transmit the skills of expert sand drawers;
- Establish permanent interactive sand drawing display for the National Museum of Vanuatu.
National inventory revival of the traditional ceramics01-2003/07-2008, Uzbekistan
Uzbek potters used special techniques for producing the famous bluecoloured glaze to decorate vessels and tiles. Many sacred monuments in the city of Samarkand, the ancient centre of this art, memorialize this century-old tradition.
The project aimed to revive the technique of producing the traditional plant-based glaze of the region for application in ceramic vessels and architectural restoration, and to support the potters working within the historical ceramic traditions of Central Asia. The project, which involved the making of a special kiln according to historical models, was successful in rediscovering the traditional technology employed to produce the type of blue-glazed kashin used in Timurid Samarkand. The process of preparing the clay and glaze was recorded on video. Based on the recommendations of experts at an international symposium in Samarkand (2002), UNESCO initiated a follow-up to the project, mainly to establish an inventory of the traditional ceramics of Central Asia and create a new folk potters association.
Safeguarding and Transmission of the Hudhud Chants of the Ifugao05-2003/04-2008, Philippines
- Hudhud chants of the Ifugao
- © 2008 by J. Uñalivia/NCCA-IHC
Well known for their rice terraces and extensive knowledge of rice cultivation, the Ifugao perform the Hudhud chants during the sowing and harvest seasons and at funeral wakes. The chants are transmitted orally and tell about ancestral heroes, customary law, traditional practices and religious beliefs.
The project aims to collect, document and record the Hudhud as well as integrate it into local school programmes, create schools in order to teach it and ensure its transmission as a living tradition to new generations of practitioners. Finally, the project will promote the Hudhud through chanting competitions, performances and exhibitions. The preliminary documentary work has begun. Teaching the Hudhud has become an integral part of the provincial school curriculum and those/the schools that will be responsible for the transmission of the Hudhud have already been identified.
Implementation of the National Action Plan for the Safeguarding of the Wayang Puppet Theatre of Indonesia01-2005/12-2007, Indonesia
- Wayang puppet theatre
- © “Sena wangi” national secretariat
To enliven the highly crafted rod puppets, master puppeteers manipulate the swivelling arms and legs by means of sticks, accompanied by a narrator and gamelan orchestra. The plays combine local myths, Indian epics and Persian tales with contemporary issues.
While this project encompasses many activities, such as field research, documentation and a publication on the Wayang, its most important component is an in-depth training programme. Pilot projects centred on five different kinds of Wayang will be launched in a total of ten existing and new sanggars (informal Wayang schools), with a view to educating select students over a three-year period.
The project aims to enable more effective transmission from master artists to young artists of the knowledge and skills required for the performance of Wayang theatre. An inventory of sanggars and Wayang practitioners as well as audio-visual educational kits and guidebooks on various forms of Wayang will enhance the general public’s appreciation for this tradition.
- Summary description of the project (English)
Documenting and Preserving the Khang Language in Vietnam09-2006/12-2007, Viet Nam
- Recording Khang youth
- © UNESCO
The Khang ethnic minority, living in several provinces of Northwest Vietnam, is officially recognized by the government as one of the country’s most endangered cultures. The approximately four thousand members of the group do not have a written version of their language, and intermarriage with other ethnic communities has imperiled its transmission to the younger generation--despite the fact that many Khang are eager to preserve their mother tongue. This project was undertaken to safeguard Khang language and culture by recording traditional elements like folk songs, developing an orthography using the Latin alphabet, preparing materials for teaching the language in the community and training local speakers to conduct classes.
Members of Khang communities assisted Vietnamese experts from the Vietnamese Association of Folklorists in compiling word lists and grammars, which were used to create bilingual photo books and other instructional materials. These books were put to work in language classes offered intially to more than fifty Khang people, in conjunction with the newly created rules of transcription and recordings of fluent Khang speakers. The community is already working to expand and improve this language education to revitalize the use of their mother tongue, an important step in preserving their cultural heritage.
Safeguarding and Transmission of the Kutiyattam Sanskrit Theatre01-2004/10-2007, India
- Kutiyattam, Sanskrit theatre
- © Natanakairali / UNESCO
Kutiyattam is the oldest surviving form of Sanskrit theatre in Kerala, India, which developed a rich symbolic set of facial gestures, masks, and colorful costumes. This project aimed to bring Kutiyattam performers, previously working separately, together in creative exchange and expand the interest in their art. The long-term objectives were to:
- Create a network of Kutiyattam institutions and gurukalam (learning centres)
- Nurture the transmission to future generations
- Develop new audiences for Kutiyattam
- Foster further academic research on Kutiyattam
To address them, the project activities included the organization of:
- A Network of Kutiyattam Associations through joint coordination meetings of Kutiyattam institutions and gurukalam (learning centres), as well as the compilation of a Kutiyattam Register of traditional families and individual practitioners
- Training workshops and art camps for young artists and an increased number of performances, while the wider public was engaged in public performances and festivals
- Workshop for performers to handle palm-leaf manuscripts of Kutiyattam, often in possession of families; re-edition of old palm-leaf manuscripts and production of new plays; and audio-visual recordings and a series of documentary films
- Academic seminars and publications
A major result was that for the first time Kutiyattam performers cooperated in an association to address common issues and exchange practices, which in the past was kept privately in the last three custodian families. Such generation of social capital in communication is crucial to the survival of any cultural practice.
Full project description : English in preparation
Safeguarding Shashmaqom, the Classical Music of Central Asia01-2005/10-2007, Uzbekistan - Tajikistan
- Shashmaqom music
- © UNESCO
Le projet prévoit la production de documents audiovisuels (sous forme numérique) sur le shashmaqom par une équipe de spécialistes, de scientifiques et de musicologues dans les deux pays, la publication d’études scientifiques, l’organisation conjointe par les deux pays de conférences, d’expositions et de festivals et une aide aux facteurs reconnus d’instruments de musique. Des cours publics seront en outre organisés dans les deux pays pour assurer la transmission des techniques vocales et instrumentales traditionnelles.
Les résultats escomptés à la fin du projet sont les suivants: renforcement des compétences locales dans le domaine de la recherche, de l’enregistrement et de la production de documents audiovisuels; mise en place à l’échelle locale, nationale et internationale de réseaux de spécialistes, de musiciens et d’institutions s’intéressant au shashmaqom et à d’autres formes de maqoms, et promotion de relations durables dans ce domaine.
Implementation of the National Action Plan for the Safeguarding of Traditional Morin Khuur Music of Mongolia09-2004/09-2007, Mongolia
- Traditional music of the Morin Khuur
- © Mongolian National Centre for Intangible Heritage
A prominent musical expression among nomadic Mongolians, the Morin Khuur is an integral part of rituals and everyday activities. Distinct in sound, this two-stringed fiddle is characterized by its long neck bearing a carved horse head, reflecting the all-important cult of the horse among the nomad communities.
Intensive field research was undertaken to obtain updated information on diverse forms of Morin Khuur and its master players. A training workshop was organized in order to provide master players with basic teaching skills necessary to conduct training courses in the Morin Khuur traditions to be organized at pilot secondary schools in four administrative regions in Mongolia. A national Morin Khuur competition and festival was also organized and broadcast nationwide.
Field research extended and updated the existing archive of the Morin Khuur tradition and its master players. The training workshop contributed to strengthen the capacities essential to the preservation of the tradition. Masters were encouraged to preserve and transmit their traditional skills. Competitions and festivals enhanced the knowledge of and appreciation by young people for the Morin Khuur.
- Summary description of the project (English)
Traditional Money Banks in Vanuatu07-2004/06-2007, Vanuatu
- Celebration of 2007, the Year of the Traditional Economy in Vanuatu
- © Kirk Huffman
This project was designed to establish and promote traditional money banks that would allow people who are involved in the production of various forms of traditional wealth to continue producing such wealth while those who are primarily involved in the cash economy can have access to the traditional valuables needed for ceremonial activities.
Through this project, sufficient data on traditional money banking mechanisms and local communities demanding maintenance and revitalization of their traditional money systems was collected. Local populations were actively involved in the project; traditional money bank systems were established in many islands in Vanuatu, providing them with infrastructure materials necessary to establish traditional money banks. The project also resulted in the Vanuatu Government declaring “the Year of Traditional Economy 2007” so as to ensure the importance of traditional economy for self-reliance and sustainable development.
Safeguarding the Yukaghir Language and Oral Traditions2007, Russian Federation
- Sharing traditional Yukagir knowledge
- © UNESCO
Before this project, the language of the Yukagir was spoken fluently by only seventeen people. As a result, the oral and linguistic traditions of this ethnicy community in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) of the Russian Federation were severely endangered. With assistance from UNESCO, the Education Ministry of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and the Institute of the Indigenous Peoples of the North of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences undertook to promote the transmission of Yukagir oral traditions to youth and digitize the language and cultural materials, facilitating both transmission and preservation.
- Yukagir students attend a master class in language and oral heritage
- © UNESCO
The project involved four distinct activites:
- Organizing master classes led by native speakers to preserve oral intangible culture,
- Creating resource centers in schools that involve youth in the recording of traditional culture,
- Developing multimedia and electronic teaching aids and
- Digitizing Yukagir sources stored in state and private archives in a new inventory of the Yukagir oral intangible heritage
Active and enthusiastic engagement in this project by Yukagir of all ages means that the work of safeguarding their culture will continue through formal and informal education, preserving diversity and fostering pride in the Yukagir ethnic identity.
Establishment of Inventory and Preparation of a Ten-Year Master Plan for Safeguarding the Traditional Culture and Folklore of the Boysun District05-2003/06-2005, Uzbekistan
- Cultural space of Boysun District
- © National Commission of Uzbekistan
Boysun, located in south-eastern Uzbekistan, is known as one of the oldest inhabited areas of Central Asia. Local people gather to practice traditional rites such as the sowing ritual, wedding ceremonies, circumcisions of boys, funeral rites, and shamanistic rituals.
The project action plan included training tradition bearers, teachers and students to undertake field research, involving audio-visual documentation, ethnomusicological methodology and practices, as well as the establishment and maintenance of an electronic inventory of the performing arts, popular traditions and handicrafts of the Boysun district. Text materials, audio and video recordings and photos were collected during field research in 2004. The publication of a digital inventory followed, including DVDs and audio CDs. The Master Plan to be elaborated on the basis of this project entailed the preparation of legal provisions to protect the Boysun district as a cultural and natural park, the transmission of intangible cultural heritage elements through educational and training programmes for young performers and the publication of an atlas and illustrated monograph on Boysun handicrafts and folklore.
Safeguarding the linguistic and literary heritage of endangered languages in Yunnan2004/2005, China
In the province of Yunnan, China, the oral and written literary traditions of groups such as the Hani, Nisu and Lisu are in danger of being lost as the elders of these communities and their poorly documented local languages disappear. The goal of this project was to safeguard this valuable cultural heritage by developing local institutional capacity to document, maintain and revitalize languages and traditions.
Forging a partnership between Yuxi Normal University (Yunnan) and La Trobe University (Australia), researchers from the two institutions worked together to:
- train Chinese teacher educators and student teachers to document and maintain oral and written literature, creating a skills base for future work on minority languages,
- develop literary and educational materials in and about the languages of the Hani, Nisu and Lisu communities
- deploy this new institutional capacity to assist these groups in preserving the region’s linguistic diversity and traditional knowledge
Supporting Chinese efforts to safeguard minority languages2002/2005, China
Officially, China counts 56 ethnic groups and over 120 living languages, ranging from Mandarin, with nearly 1 billion speakers and about 100 dialects, to Hezhen, with only 20 speakers. From 2002 to 2005, UNESCO’s Beijing Office supported the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in research into eight endangered ethnic minority languages in China: Manchu, She, Lakkia, Tujia, Western Yugur, Anong, Hezhen and Ersu. For each language, experts conducted basic documentation (creating dictionaries, grammars, etc.) and developed teaching materials to facilitate the use of the languages in education. The project also resulted in the creation of an audiovisual archive for the use of anthropologists and linguists.
Documentation and revitalization of endangered languages in the Upper Mekong region2002/2005, China - Thailand
The culture unit of the UNESCO Bangkok Office implemented this program in the framework of the Trafficking and HIV/AIDS project to diffuse information using ethnic minority languages. In Thailand, a 30-episode soap opera against trafficking, HIV/AIDS and non-traditional drug use was produced in cooperation with local research institutions, broadcasting entities and ethnic minority authors and speakers of in Lahu, a minority language of the north; it aired in 2004. This project also laid the groundwork for a similar production in the Naxi language spoken around the town of Lijiang in the Yunnan Province in China: a two-month training class taught community members the official transcription for Naxi and developed a working vocabulary for HIV/AIDS, trafficking and drug prevention. The training also served to invigorate reading and writing of the Naxi language, which is widely spoken, but rarely written. The graduates of this seminar will be the actors and actresses in the Naxi soap opera to be produced by the Lijiang Municipal Broadcasting Station. The scripts, tapes and related outputs of the programmes are being packaged, and are available for educational re-use in the communities, schools and local health offices.
Endangered languages in Indonesia: Documentation of Kenyah2004/2005, Indonesia
The objective of this project, co-funded by UNESCO and carried out by the Jakarta Field Station of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in 2004/2005, was to document and preserve two endangered Kenyah isolects in Indonesia, Uma’ Kulit and Oma Lung. No thorough description of any Kenyah isolect had ever been produced; indeed, the only existing documents in Kenyah were a few wordlists and a Bible translation in one isolect, Leppo’ Tau. The need for action was especially urgent for the Uma’ Kulit and Oma Lung isolects. Both are under strong pressure from more prestigious Kenyah isolects, so that speakers may soon be forced to abandon their mother tongues.
The project entailed:
- Recording oral literature and oral history, including poems, songs, music and dances,
- Transcribing texts with the assistance of native consultants,
- Analyzing the linguistic structure of these unique isolects,
- Generating glossaries to facilitate the creation of dictionaries and
- Making texts available to members of the community on audio cassettes and in written form.
The multimedia recordings will help share local culture with the rest of the world, and the written corpus of myths and stories is intended to serve as the basis of future efforts to develop native-language curricula.
Safeguarding endangered languages of indigenous peoples of Siberia2005, Russian Federation
With nearly thirty endangered languages spoken only in Siberia, the region’s once-vibrant linguistic diversity is seriously threatened. This project pooled the resources of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the UNESCO Moscow Office of Siberia to establish a framework for protecting and reviving these languages.
The focal point for the project was a round table held on 27 and 28 October 2005 with the participation of experts in linguistics, ethnology and anthropology, teachers of the native Siberian languages, researchers from Siberian institutions and UNESCO intangible cultural heritage experts. The participants assembled extensive data and worked out basic principles for monitoring and safeguarding the threatened languages of Siberian peoples.
A series of related projects followed the round table, including:
- A bilingual English/Russian database on endangered languages in Siberia,
- A database of ongoing and completed documentation or education projects,
- A DVD entitled ‘Endangered Languages of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia’ to educate the public about this issue and
- An internet portal featuring the new databases, forums and technical information for experts.
Further information is available online at http://lingsib.unesco.ru/en/. The website will continue to disseminate information and serve as a forum for discussion about the safeguarding of endangered Siberian languages.
Safeguarding the Pacific’s linguistic diversity2000/2003, Fiji - Papua New Guinea - Solomon Islands - Vanuatu
Over 2000 languages are found in the Greater Pacific area, most of them with no writing system.
Between 2000 and 2003, the first phase of a UNESCO language revitalization project was carried out in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji to document unwritten languages such as Zia, Sare, Tape, Naman and Nese. This phase focused on basic documentation and the creation of materials to facilitate wider use of these community languages, especially in formal and informal education. The project received enthusiastic support from all speaker communities, who actively supported and advanced the language documentation work.
Thanks to the project’s encouraging results, the Japanese Government decided to fund a second phase in 2006 and 2007, focusing on thirteen languages of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Safeguarding, Revitalization and Promotion of the Kunqu Opera05-2002/12-2002, China
- Kun Qu opera
- © Chinese Academy of Arts
Rooted in popular theatre, Kun Qu influenced many other forms of Chinese opera. It is characterized by a dynamic structure, rhythmic patterns, typical melodies and complex choreography combining acrobatics and symbolic gestures. Kun Qu is considered the oldest form of Chinese opera still performed.
This project funded the annual National Kunqu Festival in Suzhou, China, where twenty-one prizes were awarded to performers from Kunqu opera schools across the country. The project also enabled many famous Kunqu artists to give training courses to over two hundred students from numerous Kunqu companies. Furthermore, these events and training sessions generated increased awareness regarding the significance of transmitting the Kunqu performing arts. The project also mobilized local, regional and national institutions, which have initiated activities and policies to enhance the dissemination of Kunqu opera.