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Rebel without a cause!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Preservation is better than nostalgia

Prevention is better than nostalgia seems to be the theme behind the work of Ganesh Devy profiled in this piece by Anand Giridhardas.

He is trying to make the adivasis living in hills and forests of India to appreciate and hence preserve their own dying culture instead of waiting for the government and other agencies to erect museum after they are dead.

There are certain inevitabilities to the arc of development: Villagers emigrate. Life's pace quickens. Languages sputter and die. Years later, a foundation raises money, curators are retained and visitors explore a museum wondering what life then was like.

But what, Devy wondered, if there were a pre-emption doctrine for cultural preservation? His Adivasi Academy, where the dictionary-making was unfolding on a recent afternoon, is based on such a doctrine.

Its a simple but radical idea and also seems to have the potential of making the adivasi life better and removing the unnecessary pressure to adopt to the 'modern' lifestyle to survive.

In the academy's museum, adivasi culture is depicted as if it no longer existed. The exhibits feature kitchen implements, jars of adivasi foods, hand-tossed pottery, jugs for homemade liquor. If the idea were to explain adivasis to outsiders, New Delhi would be a better place. The goal is, instead, to impress upon adivasis that their culture is worthy of a museum, worthy of protection.

"If a community has a strong sense of identity and a sense of pride in that identity, it wants to survive and thrive," Devy said. "The new economy is important. The old culture is equally important. We should not throw the baby with the bath water."

Seems like a jolly good work!

Another interesting work from the same author: modernity Indian style

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