Folklore Council Aiming High

Prem Khatry

The ‘folk’ aspect of Nepali culture is not only strong and pervasive but also beautiful, energising and productive. It permeates into the depth of human mind, human creativity and human relations. The multifaceted function of folk culture as part of intangible heritage is recognised by the UNESCO. A convention held in October, 2003 and signed by several member nations established the role of State in preserving its intangible heritage, preserving it through new generation and promoting through series of activities leading to safeguarding and nomination for representative list.
Nepal, however, is not fast enough to complete the basic ‘inventorying’ process as it is a time consuming task for a multi-cultural nation like ours. The geographic feature also work as hurdle for mobilising teams to do the job. Then there are financial, technical, academic and host of other problems. The ball carrying the responsibility to complete these tasks and further more is in the court of the government.

On the move
Nepal signed the 2003 Convention in the year 2010 and is now organising relevant activities as a State party to the convention. The focal unit in the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) – Culture Division – led by a Joint Secretary is now on the move. The pace is still not fast enough to systematically complete the task. One hurdle here is especially worth noting: the frequent change of guards that obstruct plans for the safeguarding cultures and start promotional actions without delay. There are decisions and action plans that need to be approved by the Minister and there were six gentlemen on the chair in less than three years. How much can a person inhale in six months in an average and make proper decision?
Ministers apart, even the post of the Secretary is turn into full air soccer to be kicked either by a forceful Minister or by the General Administration. Who decides the fate and function of a Secretary? Only Pashupatinath knows because Pashupati also comes under the jurisdiction of MoCTCA. For those involved in heritage related activities within or near the Ministry, it is a matter of confusion, delay and indecision. The ‘focal’ point in the Ministry needs revamping and ‘retrofitting’ of some sort.
At a time when the government needs several active and well-managed organisations to prepare inventories and safeguarding plans for cultures nationwide, Folklore Council, Nepal (FC/N), is proving its worth through host of activities such as studies, seminars, publications and trainings. Once affiliated with FC as life members, young teachers, writers and researchers are provided adequate opportunities to prove their worth (which is, parlance, the worth of FC) to take up responsibilities offered. At this time several of them are engaged in inventorying and safeguarding activities on the call of the government and UNESCO/Kathmandu.
In a recent programme held at Halesi, several FC members and officials played key role in completing the inventorying/safeguarding activities in the four Kirati districts of the east - Okhaldhunga, Khotang, Solukhumbu and Udaypur. Seven more districts of the east are in the agenda and FC looks forward to work in collaboration with MoCTCA and UNESCO in the years ahead. Delay in completing the inventorying of Kiratis or other tribes and cultures will delay further processes such as preparation of representative list, for example. The focal point of MoCTCA needs to move faster than normal for the purpose of meeting the urgent need of time.
Folklore Council has left six annual seminars behind. The seminars invite scholars to write their presentation and prepare for the travel crisscrossing the hills, mountains, valleys and plains to reach the destination targeted by the previous seminar. This has given the scholars of far-west Nepal to visit Illam, Panchthar, and Taplejung (6th Seminar, 2073) including Pathivara. Paper presentations were made in all the three districts involving the local scholars and officials hosting the events locally.
The 7th annual seminar is at hand. This time the FC caravan will go to Kapilvastu, Rupandehi and Nawalparasi of mid-west Terai for the event and will engage local officials as well as well-wishers in several sessions. This time the length of event is a bit more as more than 75 papers have been submitted by scholars from Taplejung in the east to Humla, Kailali Kanchanpur, Doti, Dadeldhura and Dang in the west, including many in between these two extremes. The scholars assembled in the event will not only present papers and leave, they will visit historical, cultural and archaeological sites of the seminar area and gather knowledge and experience.
The seminar is not just an academic event to gather together. The papers will be edited further and appear in a compilation as the collective asset of the scholars and FC. In an extended meaning, they are also the asset of the government and the people of Nepal. What is required is the sense of ownership of the government in this regard. All the volumes thus far published are scientific documents useful for scholars of several tastes including, for example, the Mithila art, the sacred places of the east, and the Sangini music of the Arun Valley, among others.

Cooperation
One major and cherished project of FC/Nepal is to have a separate and full-fledged department of Folk Culture at TU. Since the TU is not moving fast enough, FC can also approach other universities of east and west Nepal. This is a very high aim and FC is committed to see this happen. Finally, with the restructuring of the nation along its geographic-demographic features, the study of cultures of Nepal will be an urgent need in order to establish ‘identity’ of the regional governments and people at large. The MoCTCA and UNESCO offer high priority to community and their role in the safeguarding of culture. The government at the center, in the region and at local level will work in collaboration in the days ahead. The need is: full cooperation from local communities, local elites and qualified research institutions and organisations functioning at all levels here mentioned.

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