Monday, December 29, 2008

To the book depository!

Christmas raid on UNESCO
Jawalakhel, Patan, Nepal

FINALLY. Third time was the charm as Raju and I once again descended upon the UNESCO Kathmandu office, demanding the free publications and books that were so rightfully ours as authentic bearers and students of a dying cultural tradition (in our case, masked and other ritual dances of the Kathmandu Valley).


UNESCO is supposed to distribute their various publications (most of which are about development and architectual restoration) to the general public. As students of religious classical dance, we were more interested in the sector called "Intangible Heritage." This proved to be intangible indeed. Three separate visits all the way out to the Jawalakhel office had found the lights on, but nobody home. Last Sunday (Sunday is a working day in Nepal), we were told they would definitely be in on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve.

Arriving at 2pm Christmas Eve, we were told that in fact, the staff got that day off as well as Christmas Day and the following Friday. The real reason for democracy and secularism: More holidays!

At long last the day dawned when they were both open and in the office, though on this day, too, the librarian and periodicals person was not in. Evidently taking five days' leave for "Christmas" (Christians still constitute less than 10% of the country, but all offices that are even vaguely government-related get to close) wasn't enough; she had 3 more days coming to her.

After much smooth talking by my friend we scored these glossy bound publications:

Masked Dances of Nepal Mandal: (a bit troubling as only 26 of its 163 pages are translated into English, meaning there's a whole lot left untranslated - but I will take what I can get; English information about the dances is scarce)

Tiji Festival of Lo Manthang (more of a photographic booklet than book, but a good basic rundown of a Tibetan Buddhist cham dance ritual)

Intangible Cultural Heritage of Nepal: Future Directions (evidently the idea of supporting Intangible-Cultural heritage, that is rituals, dances, folk music and festivals, is less established than that of preserving material culture and they are still struggling for full financial support)

--and best of all, a 7-volume set called Cultural Portraits Handbook. This includes slim volumes dedicated to Swayambhunath, Bauddhanath, Patan, Bhaktapur, Hanuman Dhoka, Changu Narayan and Pashupati.

Score! We left quite chuffed with our "Christmas" packages full of books about ritual dances of Hinduism and Buddhism.

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