UNESCO Intangible Heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, and skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural Heritage. This Intangible Heritage is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.
Last year the Indian Ministry of Culture invited suggestions from public to be able to draft a National Mission for Safeguarding the ICH of India. In this respect, the safeguarding of the ICH must not be limited to documentation and archival but the way it is being documented, how it is being documented, what are the issues that come up during the documentation, relationship between the community and the filmmaker, for whom is the documentation being done, and what are the objectives of this documentation, are some of the questions that must be given importance when such a task is being taken up. Intangible heritage is on the one hand endangered by globalization and homogenization processes and, on the other, by safeguarding measures that can petrify it. The only inherent element of ICH is its changing nature. Intangible cultural heritage should be subject to interpretations and changes by its users and those who carry it from generation to generation and, thus, should be protected with regard to its changing nature and not merely preserved.
The video presentation is about the the initial stages of the collaborative media project, which is being realized in the form an interactive cultural landscape of Burhwal village in Bihar. This website allows the youth and all members of the community, a digital home, where they can share their videos and discuss in the forum.
As people begin to share their own videos on the website, we will begin to understand that folklore (intangible heritage) is always evolving. We will have to wait and see how the rural youth engages with mobile technology, when they understand that they are sitting on a goldmine (folk tales, legends, ballads, songs, expressions). ‘DigitalBurhwal.in’ will then become an ethnographic field-site.
A note from Rajat Nayyar about the collaborative media project
I am constantly thinking about ‘crisis of representation’ and about collaborative media projects, especially when it comes to safeguarding the Intangible Heritage. Last days I have been designing an interactive cultural landscape of Burhwal village in Rohtas (Bihar). It will have all the audio/visual content that was created with my encounter with the community.
As I lived with them, celebrating their folk traditions and assisting in its transmission through the camera, I realised that merely documenting for digital archives that are inaccessible to the community is useless. I want to be redundant in this process and the archive should be owned by the community.
With the mobile technology slowly becoming popular in rural areas, I believe that ‘DigitalBurhwal.in’ could be a digital home for the people of Burhwal in this vast world wide web. Irrespective of their gender/caste, its a platform for all. Being there, I met some of the young people who showed me a short film that they made on their mobile. They struggle with finding stories to make videos, they told me. As people begin to share their own videos on the website, we will begin to understand that folklore (intangible heritage) is always evolving. We will have to wait and see how the rural youth engages with mobile technology, when they understand that they are sitting on a goldmine (stories, ballads, songs, expressions). The website should take this further.
The next step is to create marketing material (posters, stickers, cash prizes) and send it to the community, inviting them to use the website, watch videos, share videos and discuss in the forum. Most importantly, to seek collaborations with organisations and individuals who are interested in implementing this idea at a larger scale and redefine ways of safeguarding the Intangible Heritage of India. Last year the Ministry of Culture invited suggestions from public to be able to draft a National Mission of Safeguarding the ICH of India.
[UPDATE 15/09/2017 – Promoting DigitalBurhwal website locally in Burhwal – Read More]
If you are interested in becoming a financial sponsor of the project or to collaborate in taking the website beyond just a cultural archive, please write to email@example.com to discuss further.
The upcoming SIEF (International Society for Ethnology and Folklore) congress in Germany has invited us to present this project (website) in their panel ‘Dwelling in the virtual space’ on digital approaches and archival practices. Here’s about that: https://goo.gl/nSnF46
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