27.08.2012 - UNESCO Office in Kathmandu

Intangible culture focus of Fourth International Folklore Congress in Kathmandu

©Nepali Folklore Society/Tulasi Diwasa -Tharus performing jumra dance

The fourth international folklore congress recently concluded in Kathmandu. “Folklore and Folklife Studies: Special Focus on Intangible Cultural Heritage” was the theme of the event which the Nepali Folklore Society (NFS) organized from 17 to 19 August 2012 with support from various institutions including the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation and the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu.

The congress gathered more than hundred practitioners and national and international experts and researchers who presented papers on different thematic areas and addressed many crucial issues, fundamental and new theoretical approaches and good practices related to folklore in South-Asian context with special reference to Nepal.

The congress also encompassed an exhibition of eight different ethnic communities based on field work carried out by the NFS. An international poetry recitation and folk-performance on the occasion of the birth-centenary of the Nepali poet Siddhicharan Shrestha was also part of the congress.

Because folklore forms part of the heritage of humanity, national and international actions for its safeguarding is crucial. The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2003 provides an excellent framework in this regard.

Posta Bahadur Bogati, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, in his address at the opening session reaffirmed government’s commitment to bring relevant programs into action to safeguard and promote Nepal’s very rich and diverse cultural manifestations in the spirit of the convention and in line with the culture policy the government introduced two years back.

He said:  “Folklore and folklife, among others, is a cultural reflection of individual, community and a country. Because the folklore embodies people’s enthusiasm, grievances and thoughts of life and practices, it carries the originality of a life which is an exemplary for others but also an invaluable assets for a country.”

Tulasi Diwasa, President of the NFS raised very important issue on how to utilize the different forms of folklores which is so attached with its natural environment, socio-cultural condition and context in order to enhance the quality of people living in different parts of the country.

Axel Plathe, UNESCO Representative to Nepal said: “Folklore as an intrinsic part of living culture is closely interlinked with other manifestations of culture: traditions, value systems, and lifestyles. It is also a powerful connector as it brings together people celebrating and asserting their cultural identities. This congress is an opportunity to foster respect for the living cultural expression and traditions that are the essence of the people in Nepal and elsewhere”.

Addressing the academic session, Tim Curtis from UNESCO Office in Bangkok shared the Asia Pacific experience of and challenges facing the region in implementing the 2003 Convention.

He said: “Often ministries or the departments of culture do have conservation architects, archaeologists dealing with heritage but not enough experts who deal with the intangible heritage such as anthropologist and people who have worked in this area.  So the main objective is not limited to building capacity of policy makers and government implementers, but also the community members and NGOs, because one of the requirements of the Convention is to establish an inventory of the intangible culture heritage and also the requirement that practitioners have to have an ultimate say to identify, define and how to safeguard the intangible heritage”.

The three point Kathmandu Declaration – to establish folklore faculties in universities, a SAARC level folklore learning centre and an umbrella folklore academy of institutions working in the field of folklore- has been adopted in the congress. 

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