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Post-Tsunami Rehabilitation Using Traditional Performing Arts

Dance therapy to Nicobari tribes © APPAN

UNESCO delivers workshops in traditional performing arts and musical expressions to tsunami-affected communities in the South-East Asian sub-region. 

The arts and music are universally recognized as outlets of human expression that enrich people’s lives, in terms of both the creativity and enjoyment realized through them. Recognizing this, UNESCO Bangkok’s Culture Unit is teaming up with the Asia-Pacific Performing Arts Network (APPAN), Thailand’s Ministry of Culture, Patravadi Theatre and the Sikkha Asia Foundation to provide workshops in traditional performing arts and musical expression to tsunami-affected communities in the South-East Asian sub-region.

The project, which is funded by the City of Hiroshima in Japan, aims to support the socio-cultural rehabilitation of tsunami-distressed communities, promote safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and demonstrate a new role for the performing arts in post-disaster situations.

“Performing arts such as dance and puppetry have a long tradition in Asia, and constitute a core cultural resource in local communities,” explains Richard Engelhardt, UNESCO Regional Advisor for Culture in Asia and the Pacific. “Throughout the centuries and in various parts of the world, performing arts have been used to convey essential messages and skills from one generation to the next. It is time for us to recognize the strength of cultural traditions to help shattered communities reclaim their lives in post-disaster situations”. Drawing on cultural resources to overcome the events of the recent disaster is highly effective, as the workshops in Aceh and Nias, Indonesia have already demonstrated. It strengthens the communities’ cultural identity and creates a context for co-operative thinking and action, which is very much needed in an environment of social disruption and displacement.

At a refugee camp in Indonesia, an old woman who participated in a UNESCO workshop that focused on the traditional Indonesian dance forms Maina and Moyo says, “Dancing together gives us an outlet for our emotions and makes us feel good and optimistic about the future. It is also making our community stronger and more united”.

Another community in Auroville, India has expanded the project from performing to also producing their own puppets. This initiative moves the focus away from merely the tragedy of the tsunami to the many creative efforts people have undertaken to find meaning for themselves in a changed world. By selling the puppets, the project has even started to generate income for the community. Next, project participants plan to compile a storytelling and puppetry kit to sell as a symbol of the human spirit’s strength in coping with disaster. 
 

 


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