There was a time when life had to be carved out of the jaws of nature. The numerous means, tricks and strategies man developed to safeguard his life in the vast hostile universe got stored in his life-style contributing to creation of a racial memory.
Precious Art of Life Courtesy: Unesco
Today, when rarely, if at all, we are challenged by a wild beast it is not life that that needs safeguarding. Ah, the joy of having reached a point where threats to mechanisms we devised to secure lives are greater han to actual life itself. This does not forward insensitivity to actual life-threats that still hound us, but is rhetoric used to sensitize people at large to conditions that minimize our freedom to thought (and hence, action) by reducing our storehouse of racial memory.
Unesco Convention 2003 is a strong step in the right direction. The poet’s warning about a ‘world so full of care.. one has no time stand and stare’ has come home. The care is no longer a weariness arising out of huff and puff of a world in toil; it is anxiety propelled by the giant strides of progress. What may get crushed beneath the wheels is least of its concerns.
To encourage individuals, institutions and nations to promote sensitivity to loss of immense human knowledge, contained more in life-styles nourishing these practices than their mere form and passed for generations through oral tradition, UNESCO started a Representative list. Various nations have contributed practices that are gravely endangered and need to be safeguarded, to this list. Some of these have been compiled in this book, which can be downloaded from the website of Intangible Heritage.
Apart from devising consensus, NGOs have been entrusted with the task to apprise the community of ICH practices about possible strategies to safeguard them. Depending on situation, either a practice can be preserved, promoted or allowed to continue without any external impetus. The last is ideal; hard to attain. The great challenge however is to learn to carry out the act of preservation/ promotion, lest through excessive interference, the practice ‘loses its essence its sanctity’ (as pointed out in this article on Omenad).