Creating democratic zones

Creating democratic zones
By Shiva Rijal
We feel euphoric in Nepal now despite difficulties ahead. We celebrate political awakening. Every step is a move towards new Nepal. But this psycho-political transformation in Nepal expects an urgent cultivation of new cultures from us. Struggles made against the old system and values propel our actions ahead. Change we must but we cannot part away with some old forms of art and knowledge. We have to practice and preserve them at any cost.

Various political parties of our times have put forward the agenda of remapping the nation into various geo-cultural provinces. Political scientists and politicians hold different views on the need and nature of such federal structure in new Nepal. As a person devoted to performing culture and currently carrying out research in this area in Bali, I want to put in this article some of my feelings about the future of traditional art forms in Nepal. I hold the view that many of us are already worried about it.

Traditional dance, music and other art forms practised in various geo-cultural spaces and languages also need to be redefined and managed according to the new socio-aesthetic and political culture. They cannot remain indisputably the wholesale metaphors of the nation. Gone are the days when we said this nation is the flower garden where people of four castes and thirty-six features blossom forth. Each art form practised in each community holds some distinct colours and voices. Therefore, it belongs to its practitioners and audiences first, and then to the nation and this world. That is why; so much depends on the numbers of the practitioners of traditional individual art forms. Each practitioner of art of this order is a creator, protector and harbinger of experiments for the new generation. Therefore, the larger the number of the practitioners and audience, the greater the flow of the traditional art and knowledge.

But how can we do it? One possible approach towards it would be to train our children. But our children go to school six days a week. They have homework to do. We love them to learn English language, western culture and be familiar with the world and human civilizations of different times and places. And by the time our children complete school education it is time for them to move to different places in search of their dreams. And we love our children to explore their dreams in this universe.

The next approach would be to change the curricula in school and universities. But a classroom either in a school or college is not a homogeneous entity. Students come from different cultural and social backgrounds. Since parents are mobile, children too travel across the communities, zones and the nation. How many art teachers can a school or college afford to keep in? Let us ask.

Another approach would be to locate the practitioners of traditional art forms. Their numbers are decreasing but they are still available in various local communities no matter how less privileged they are. Their house-yard can be the place where our children can go and learn in their free times. But many parents do not want their children to go to some people's courtyards. Caste is a debilitating plant that still invisibly grows up in many house-yards and minds in Nepal. Nepal has many boundaries to break.

Despite all, there are hopes. We can create multiple yards or zones of learning art and craft of this nature at local level. Each community should feel the importance and urgency of creating some secular and democratic zones of learning and teaching traditional art and knowledge to its members. It has a responsibility of breaking some old boundaries within through mutual understanding among its members. Democratic zones where our children, youths and senior art practitioners can meet on a regular basis can play transformational roles in the domain of performing culture in new Nepal. The most important thing is to increase the frequency of meetings between and among the practitioners--both learners and teachers. This benefits the entire community; its traditional knowledge and art and human civilization flourish. We can do it by creating democratic zones only. New Nepal cannot emerge without such little democratic zones sprouting in every community.

Members of each community these days are mobile. By the same token, the practitioners of the traditional arts are getting more mobile. Some communities are famous for one or the other kinds of art practices. The practitioners are always in demand. They create zones of audience where they go and perform. They are aware about the policies of the nation state towards its local arts and cultures. They can also be the decision makers.

Since this is the time of euphoria, agendas and slogans for new Nepal occupy our minds. It is indeed a time to act, to dance. But let us not forget a fact. Democracy alone can teach and help us preserve, practise and flourish our traditional art forms and bolster our knowledge. Let us understand the essence of the dance of democracy very deeply. Such is the message of performance culture.

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