Experience related on Myanmar Culture Heritage of the Irrawaddy Delta


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The impact of the natural disaster on the Tangible and Intangible Culture Heritage: Experience in the Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar

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Experience related on Myanmar Culture Heritage of the Irrawaddy Delta

  1. 1. Institution: Mandalay Marionettes Theater and Culture GroupJob title: Director, Mandalay Marionettes Theater, MyanmarName: Kyaw Myo KoContact details:tel / fax : +95 (0) 2 34446 / 2 65011office : Room No. B-5, 27th St., bet: 71st x 72nd St..theater : 66th St., bet: 26th x 27th St. Mandalay, Myanmar.Email: kmk@myanmarupperland.comTitle of the case study:The impact of the natural disaster on the Tangible and Intangible Culture Heritage:Experience in the Irrawaddy Delta in MyanmarIntroduction and ContextCyclone Nargis, devastated the Irrawaddy delta on 2 and 3 May 2008, killing tens of thousandsof people and ruined Myanmar infrastructure, many survivors remained vulnerable andtraumatized. In order to be able to continue theatrical and religious activities in the affectedregion of Moulmeingyun Township and Bogalay Township, Myanmar, the following activitieswere funded by Prince Claus Fund / CER and coordinated by Kyaw Myo Ko, Director ofMandalay Marionettes and Culture Group.Based on set objectives, we selected the locations and the fields that we aimed.1. Under the category of artistic related, monasteries, cultural heritages of Location No.1Moulmeingyun Township;-Restoration of the Kanner Monastry-Restoration of the Kyunlone Kutkar Pagoda, Sabbath and Mediation hall and Buddha Statues-Rebuilding of the theatrical organization office-Activities for Theatrical Supports
  2. 2. 2. Under the category of artistic related, monasteries and cultural heritages of Location No.2Bogalay Township-Restoration of the Shin U Pa Goata Shrine-Restoration of the Koe Myo Nan Spirit House-Rebuilding of the theatrical organization office-Activities for Theatrical SupportsThen commencing the projects under the two main titles as the Reconstruction of the culturalBuildings Projects and the Theatrical Supports Projects for restoration of Tangible Cultureheritage and safeguarding of the Intangible Culture Heritage.(The project activities were commenced in mid-March 2009 and finished at mid-October 2009)--------------------Description of the situationThe following steps were provided as the project initiating phase;1) Planed meetings with local experts and selected participants2) Organized field trips for data gathering and to make descriptions of; • the disaster • the cultural heritage in question • the damage that the cultural heritage has incurred as a result of the disaster • the heritage’s cultural value for the affected community • the proposed activities • a detailed financial budget for those activities • information about the contract partner, the contact person and the project co- coordinator • information about any additional partners, both financial and otherwise • a provisional budget for the heritage’s further restorationAs referring to the record of one leading Journal, the numerical breakdown of the damagedmonasteries by the cyclone Nargis were as follows;In the Irrawaddy Division, there were 1163 partially damaged monasteries and 736 totallycollapsed monasteries. 600 Monasteries were being renovated by the Government, Publicsector and International aid.
  3. 3. In Yangon Division, there were 2846 partially damaged monasteries and 52 totally collapsedmonasteries.Until the end of June 2008, 2593 Monasteries were being renovated by the Government, Publicsector and International aid in Yangon Division and 305 Monasteries were in need ofrenovation.In Myanmar, The land of Pagodas, we have some golden and towering Pagodas like the greatShwedagon Pagoda in Yangon; others are small and whitewashed, on hilltops or flatlandsamong green paddy fields and in almost every village.Pagodas and Monasteries are not merely places of religious worship and ritual. They are alsocenters of community for social activities, places for communal alms-giving in certain seasonsand last but not least they have an important function for the continuity of Intangible CultureHeritage.In Myanmar culture, every pagoda has an annual festival, and all such festivals are the place oftrade fairs, clan gathering and cultural diversity. Besides this, the Pagoda has an important rolefor artists because it is the place for artists and where theatrical and dramatic troupes canperform.During our Assessment trip, we selected one monastery, one meditation hall with Buddhastatues, 2 spiritual houses and two township level theatrical organization offices which werereally in need to be renovated. We also found out the damages at other spiritual houses sincethe majority of Buddhism as practiced in Myanmar is mixed up with spiritual worship andanimism.According to the nature of this Irrawaddy delta region, the majority of the people earned theirliving in fishing and farming. We assumed that there were artists who employ themselves asartists and some artists also being a fisherman or farmer for their livelihoods. But due to lack ofsome original records, it was difficult to discover the depth of their troubles. Thanks to supportof township level theatrical organizations, we could verify the most reliable data. There were nopuppets and puppeteers thoughtfully affected by Cyclone Nargis although the other performingart community from this effected delta region was damaged.
  4. 4. In this deeply concerned with the devastations of Cyclone Nargis, the Prince Claus Fund (PCF),in the context of the Cultural Emergency Response Program (CER), aimed on the subject ofmaking inventory of Cultural heritage, Artistic related to the Intangible Asset and the damagedMonasteries and other which related to Tangible Culture Heritage------------------Discussion of the approach chosenChallenges of the Local CommunityThe local community of artists and the owners of heritage places were not aware how theseprojects worked and how they should response to such activity. Unfortunately, participation indecision-making for the local people is not a “bottom-up” but rather “top-down” process.Since before the cyclone Nargis hit 2008, public infrastructure is underdeveloped and a morerigorous heritage-oriented activity is questioned to achieve at this stage.After the devastations, the community of the artists obviously does not have access to viablefinancial support for their profession and are also lacking means for their survival needs.Challenges of the project TeamAlthough the core project team was affiliated with the Myanmar Theatrical Association, therewas still lacking awareness of the method of assessment at Tangible heritage and especially inIntangible heritage as there had no such experiences been before at that time of June 2008.Lure of the telecommunication was the main challenge and also there has no public internetconnection in this delta region.Activities in Moulmeingyun, MyanmarRestoration of the Kanner MonastryThe Kanner monastery was provided mostly with a new building with the previous design.The building was in use to hold the examinations for the monks around this region and for thepublic community for donation ceremonies and also for novitiate ceremonies and situated at
  5. 5. the township center. The head monk of this monastery is also a chairman of the township levelMonk association.This monastery is of particular value to the community of Maoulmeingyun and of socialsignificance for the people of the township.Restoration of the Kyunlone Kutkar Pagoda, Sabbath and Mediation hall and Buddha StatuesIn this Sabbath hall from Kyunlone Kutkar Pagoda where the Buddhists used to take the 8perceptions and learn the Buddha’s teaching once a week of every Sabbath day, most of theBuddha statues were damaged in this cyclone Nargis.The structure of the distorted Pagoda and the meditation hall were restored; as well asrepaired on Buddha statues and also some new replaced Buddha statues were built.These activities helped the continuity of religious belief and this is of spiritual and socialsignificance for the local community.Rebuilding the theatrical organization officeThe theatrical office building was rebuilt completely as according to the proposed plan tosupport, centre and maintain the intangible cultural heritage of the local community.Activities in Bogalay, MyanmarRestoration of the Shin U Pa Goata ShrineThe Shin U Pa Goata (the name of the Buddha’s disciple) Shrine was rebuilt completely. This isalso of spiritual and social significance for the local people since it was used to hold animportant ceremony once a year.Restoration of the Koe Myo Nan Spirit HouseThe Koe Myo Nan spirit house was completely rebuilt as in the original style, the walls androofing were repaired; a wooden stand to put on the Nat statues (Nats are Burmese spirits thatdied at the hands of royalty) was also provided.
  6. 6. It is the religious belief of the township people and this is of spiritual significance for the localcommunity.Rebuilding of the theatrical organization officeThe theatrical office building was rebuilt completely according to the proposed plan for theunion of the artists in this region. The theatrical office building is of significance with futurecommunication to this remote area and to support this specific community of Artists.Activities for Theatrical Supports in the Region5 Sets of Quality Traditional Orchestras were produced and delivered to entitled Orchestrabands that were lost and damaged their musical instruments. Those entitled were selected bythe previous decision of the board of Myanmar Theatrical association, township theatricalassociations and the project coordinator.Sets of Orchestras have an important role in maintaining all branches of Myanmar traditionalculture to preserve and safeguard the diversity of Intangible Culture Heritage which is closelyrelated to the artists/musicians/dancersOne of the theatrical groups expressed their concern with regard to sustain the traditionalperforming art, for them were necessary, replacement of theatrical related objects such assound box, amplifier and its accessories, performance curtains and lights settings. Thoseactivities supported the artistic and social significance for the Artists and the local communities.-------------------Critical evaluation and ConclusionTraditional cultural community from Delta region did really appreciate the support of theCultural Emergency Response program of Prince Claus Fund (PCF) and the Local Actors sincethere was no hope for them. Although there were some INGO’s but they did help othercommunities.The people from traditional cultural communities, monks, caretakers and trusteeship of theconcerning buildings have been really pleased and also expressed their gratitude and many
  7. 7. thanks to the project at their testimonial letters as well when they did regained the monk’sdining and examination hall and Sabbath day gathering and the meditation hall inMoulmeingyun and the spiritual house in Bogalay.The stakeholders like the members from the different levels of Myanmar Theatrical association,the monks, trustees and heads of the communities and the artists also had been very pleasedand were proud on bridging those opportunities to the local community though there hadinland policy disputed circumstances by the government.Although the implementation of the project was faced with difficulties due to communicationand transportation, eventually set objectives and intended deliverables of the project weremet. The social awareness has been raised among the local communities with regard to theimportance of preserving not only the tangible but also the intangible cultural heritage.One of the key factors of the success is that this project was affiliated with Myanmar TheatricalAssociation (Central) at some main management parts like the selection of the artists whoentitled the set of Myanmar Orchestra and some other theatrical related. So that we have moreaccess to formal procedure of Governmental works as well.Finally all the projects have fulfilled all of the requirements as documented and thestakeholders and the people from every community who were connected to this project weresatisfied that all outstanding items had been satisfactorily addressed.----------References:Kyaw Myo Ko (Director, Mandalay Marionettes and Culture Group), “Project Closure Report forReconstruction Buildings Projects and Project Closure Report for Theatrical Supports Project” toPrince Claus Fund/ CER, The Netherland.