Nepali winners of intangible heritage storytelling contest awarded

UNESCO Representative to Nepal Christian Manhart congratulated the Nepali winners of the 2019 Asia-Pacific Youth ICH Storytelling Contest on 12 March 2020, during the award distribution ceremony, with representatives from the Ministry of Culture and the Nepal National Commission for UNESCO also in attendance. The contest was launched by ICHCAP, a UNESCO Category II Institute for International Information and Networking Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific region, to strengthen young practitioner networks and raise awareness of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage among the younger generation.

Out of 29 winners, five youth from Nepal won titles: Alina Tamramar, Maya Rai, Deepak Tolange, Rija Joshi and Monalisha Maharjan.

The winners presented their inspiring works and the powerful messages they conveyed guide the future safeguarding. When sharing her work “Gunla baajan, a traditional devotional music”, excellence prizewinner Alina Tamrakar said, “It is a matter of pride, but also a major affirmation that wealth of knowledge, skill and the accomplishments of ancestors are being passed down to children and grandchildren.”

Distinction prizewinner Maya Rai told the story of how she, a rural girl, transformed herself into an urban entrepreneur, devoting her life to empower community people through weaving. She teaches urban communities about ethnic handicrafts such as Tharu basketry, an inherited skill of Tharu women deeply linked with their marital life.

Similarly, special prizewinner Deepak Tolange’s work unfolded the story of Gyani Maiya Sen (84), the only surviving speaker of the Kusunda (a nomadic tribe) language. The video essay, documenting her effort to teach the language to local children showcased both risk and hope for the future, though sadly not for long with her passing in January, 2020.

Participation prizewinners Rija Joshi and Monalisha Maharjan’s work were also commendable examples of safeguarding intangible heritage initiatives taken by youth. Through baakhan nyenewa, Rija’s work tried to revive the oral form of storytelling related to rich culture, tradition, rituals, and festivals. Monalisha shared her photo story about the guthi system, an ancient practice of safeguarding heritage.

Dr. Baburam Adhikari from the Nepal National Commission for UNESCO praised the efforts made by the winners to transmit knowledge and safeguard heritage and encouraged them to keep up their good work.

Christian Manhart expressed his confidence that the winners will contribute towards safeguarding Nepal’s rich living traditions and encourage other youth to do the same.

UNESCO prioritizes youth as key factors and partners in its mission to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue and emphasizes young people’s involvement in the transmission of intangible heritage among communities, groups, and individuals.