Pakistan Initiates Project for Safeguarding the Culture of Kalash Community - Official Appreciates UNESCO, NORWAY & SERENA'S EXHIBITION

Founder Editor Tazeen Akhtar..

Islamabad; 27 Sep 2016 - Federal Secretary Ministry of Culture and Heritage has said that Government of Pakistan  in collaboration with UNESCO and within the Framework of UNESCO’s 2003 convention has initiated a project for safeguarding and documenting the cultural practices of Kalasha Community. During the length of this project, a methodology for Intangible Cultural Heritage inventorying will be established and sample inventories plus a draft dossier for the nomination of Kalasha community as an element to be placed on the UNESCO urgent safeguarding List will be prepared. 

Federal Secretary was addressing the participants of "Faces of the Kalash" exhibition here at Serena Hotel. In an effort to raise awareness and highlight the importance of safeguarding the diverse culture of the country, UNESCO Pakistan and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Islamabad in collaboration with Islamabad Serena Hotel, launched an ethnographic photo exhibition, entitled “Faces of the Kalash” at Satrang Art Gallery Corridor, Serena Hotel Islamabad. The five days’ exhibition from 27 September to 2 October, 2015 is showcasing photographs fromGeorg Morgenstierne’s field-work in Chitral, Pakistan in 1929.At the time, Morgenstierne was a Norwegian linguistics professor who visited the region and documented the culture of the Kalash extensively. His photographs are showcased for the first time in Pakistan.

Secreatey extended profound gratitude to the Co-organizers of the exhibition on behalf of Gov of Pakistan and said "Today’s exhibition we see Kalash Valley as seen by Mr. Georg Morgenstierne a Norwegian Field worker who visited Kalash Valley for his field work in 1929. He photographed Kalash’s age old civilization and culture, scenic Mountains, its people and their colorful Lives. This exhibition features, and see a community full of vigor, vitality and hope. The artistic frames and compositions displayed here also reflect the friendly sentiments of the Norwegian people for the people of Pakistan.

"Kalasha Community is the only remaining community who practice cultural and religious traditions that once extended across the Hindu Kush, this requires urgent safeguarding." 

Speaking at the opening, UNESCO Representative to Pakistan, Ms. Vibeke Jensen, highlighted the urgent need for safeguarding the unique culture of the Kalash people. She said that the photo exhibition provides an opportunity for much needed awareness-raising with regards to safeguarding of a minority culture which is at risk of disappearing. Promoting respect for cultural diversity is at the core of UNESCO’s mandate and also features in the new sustainable development agenda 2030 that all UN member states have become signatories to.

She highlighted the efforts being made with the support of a number of Embassies and development partners in Islamabad to support cultural safeguarding and livelihood activities for the people living in the Kalash valleys. The world will be a lot poorer without the Kalash people and along with them many other minority groups in the world were they to disappear completely. Professor Morgenstierne realized that already in 1929. It is about time we also learn that lesson. Local, indigenous knowledge is key to devising sustainable and climate friendly development strategies and it will be a huge loss for all of us if that knowledge disappears.

She concluded by thanking the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Islamabad for inviting UNESCO to collaborate on this photo exhibition, which later in October will be brought to the Kalash valleys and handed over to the local community. She also expressed her gratitude to Satrang Gallery and Islamabad Serena Hotel for their support in organizing the exhibition.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, H.E. Tore Nedrebø, Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Islamabad, welcomed all the participants and commended UNESCO’s efforts to support the exhibition. He said that the unique culture of the Kalash people was captured and documented by Mr. Georg Valentin von Munthe af Morgenstierne (born in Oslo in 1892 and died in 1978): “Morgenstierne was a language genius, and a professor of linguistics at the University of Oslo and carried out field-work during 1923 to 1971 in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and IranIn addition to his field work, he also collected some remarkable scientific materials from the culture of the regional people, like images, movies from pre-Islamic ceremonial dances, as well as sound recordings from nearly extinct languages. The materials are available in a database at the National Library of Norway.”                                                                                                                                                          

The UNESCO’s Convention for safeguarding Intangible Culture Heritage (ICH) was adopted in 2003 to safeguard the living heritage against the threats posed by the contemporary process of globalization and unprecedented social transformation. The convention lays out a number of possible safeguarding measures including identification, documentation, research, and promotion, transmission of knowledge specifically through formal and non-formal education. The convention provides a mechanism of international cooperation which includes the listing system and Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund, which encourages the State Parties to the Convention to inscribe its endangered ICH elements on the Urgent Safeguarding List and apply for international assistance.