Her Majesty Gya­lyum San­gay Cho­den Wangchuck at­tends cul­tural sym­po­sium in Wash­ing­ton DC

Bhutan Times - - Front Page - Sonam Pen­jor

Her Majesty Gya­lyum San­gay Cho­den Wangchuck, the Royal Pa­tron of the Royal Tex­tile Academy at­tended a sym­po­sium ti­tled “Cul­tural Sus­tain­abil­ity in the Age of Glob­al­iza­tion” in Wash­ing­ton DC, USA last Thurs­day, or­ga­nized by the Smith­so­nian Cen­ter for folk life and cul­tural her­itage in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Royal Tex­tile Academy of Bhutan and the Al­liance for Cal­i­for­nia Tra­di­tional Arts last Thurs­day.

Her Majesty in her keynote ad­dress spoke about Bhutan’s de­vel­op­ment phi­los­o­phy of GNH; Bhutan as a coun­try and Her Majesty’s per­sonal ef­forts at pre­serv­ing and pro­mot­ing our liv­ing cul­ture and arts; how cul­ture is to­day at a threat due to rapid eco­nomic ad­vance­ment; and why it is now ex­tremely im­por­tant for gov­ern­ments, coun­tries and peo­ple to take mea­sures to pre­serve and strengthen cul­tural tra­di­tions and iden­ti­ties while at the same time reap­ing the ben­e­fits of glob­al­iza­tion.

Renowned aca­demics and re­searchers from the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion and Al­liance for Cal­i­for­nia Tra­di­tional Arts also made pre­sen­ta­tions at the sym­po­sium.

Ladies and Gen­tle­men

We in Bhutan are com­mit­ted to a holis­tic de­vel­op­ment ap­proach that the world has come to know as Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness. GNH strives to strike a bal­ance be­tween so­cioe­co­nomic, en­vi­ron­men­tal, spir­i­tual and cul­tural needs of the peo­ple.

Be­fore pro­ceed­ing fur­ther, I would first like to thank The Smith­so­nian Cen­ter for Folk­life and Cul­tural Her­itage, the Royal Tex­tile Academy of Bhutan and Al­liance for Cal­i­for­nia Tra­di­tional Arts for or­ga­niz­ing this very im­por­tant sym­po­sium on Cul­tural Sus­tain­abil­ity in the face of Glob­al­iza­tion.

In par­tic­u­lar, I would like to ac­knowl­edge the valu­able con­tri­bu­tions of Dr. Michael Ma­son, Di­rec­tor, Smith­so­nian Cen­ter for Folk­life and Cul­tural Her­itage, Mrs. Krista Ama­son, Pres­i­dent of the Friends of the Royal Tex­tile Academy and Ms. Amy Kitch­ener, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Al­liance for Cal­i­for­nia Tra­di­tional Arts.

I bring to you warm greet­ings and good wishes from Their Majesties the King and Queen and the peo­ple of Bhutan.

With a pop­u­la­tion of slightly over 700,000, Bhutan is sit­u­ated be­tween China and In­dia, two of the most pop­u­lous coun­tries in the world, with over 1 bil­lion peo­ple each. Yet, through­out our his­tory, we have nei­ther been con­quered nor col­o­nized. While this is in part due to the rugged ter­rain that served as a nat­u­ral bar­rier, to a greater ex­tent it is also due to the ster­ling qual­i­ties of our wise, vi­sion­ary leaders. Four hun­dred years ago, the founder of the na­tion, Zhab­drung Ngawang Nam­gyal, re­alised that a unique cul­tural iden­tity was paramount to the sur­vival of our na­tion.

Our suc­ces­sive kings shared this wis­dom and for a tiny king­dom with nei­ther mil­i­tary nor eco­nomic might, Bhutan, to this day is a proud and in­de­pen­dent na­tion.

In the early 1970s, His Majesty the Fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck said that for a coun­try like Bhutan “Gross Na­tional Hap­pi­ness is more im­por­tant than Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct.” GNH has since been a sub­ject of great in­ter­est to many aca­demics, re­searchers and econ­o­mists, es­pe­cially in the last decade.

But its essence is best cap­tured in the words of His Majesty The King Jigme Kh­e­sar Nam­gyel Wangchuck, who re­marked that “GNH is sim­ply de­vel­op­ment with val­ues.” Of the var­i­ous com­po­nents of GNH - so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, cul­tural con­ser­va­tion, en­vi­ron­men­tal protection and good gov­er­nance - cul­ture has been the main fo­cus of my en­deav­ors.

This is be­cause cul­ture not only de­fines who we have been as a peo­ple but it must guide us as we ne­go­ti­ate the com­plex, reg­u­lat­ing forces of glob­al­iza­tion, if we are to con­tinue to re­tain our ageold val­ues and unique iden­tity. Aside from pro­mot­ing com­mu­nal har­mony and build­ing so­cial re­silience, our fes­ti­vals and his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments are also the back­bone of the tourism in­dus­try, which is the sec­ond high­est con­trib­u­tor to Bhutan’s GDP, af­ter hy­dropower.

Bhutanese cul­ture is syn­ony­mous with spir­i­tu­al­ity and liv­ing with com­pas­sion for all sen­tient be­ings. This has led to an em­pha­sis on the preser­va­tion of our cul­tural her­itage through main­tain­ing our cen­turies old fortresses and monas­ter­ies, ar­chi­tec­ture, and the tra­di­tional dress at the work place and for­mal func­tions.

It is, how­ever, a re­al­ity that like in so many other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, Bhutan also faces the side ef­fects of glob­al­iza­tion, es­pe­cially through com­mer­cial-driven tele­vi­sion shows, the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia. Rapid eco­nomic ad­vance­ment comes at the risk of cul­tural di­lu­tion and even ero­sion.

It is there­fore ex­tremely im­por­tant that gov­ern­ments, coun­tries and peo­ple take mea­sures to pre­serve and strengthen cul­tural tra­di­tions and iden­ti­ties while at the same time reap­ing the ben­e­fits of glob­al­iza­tion.

Preser­va­tion of the liv­ing arts is an ini­tia­tive I have al­ways felt very strongly about. It led to my in­volve­ment in es­tab­lish­ing the coun­try’s first tex­tile mu­seum in 2001 and the Royal Tex­tile Academy in 2005. These two or­ga­ni­za­tions are among sev­eral oth­ers that seek to pre­serve Bhutan’s liv­ing arts while em­brac­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties served by glob­al­iza­tion.

The ob­jec­tives of the Academy are to pre­serve and show­case our unique tex­tile arts and to pro­mote their de­vel­op­ment and to grad­u­ally evolve into a cen­tre for stud­ies and re­search.

The RTA presently trains women from ru­ral ar­eas in the art of weav­ing tra­di­tional tex­tiles, yarn dye­ing as well on ba­sic book-keep­ing and ac­counts to de­ter­mine the cost of the wo­ven pieces. Not only do the women get trained as for­bear­ers and suc­ces­sors of tra­di­tional tex­tile knowl­edge, but also through this, the RTA is able to eco­nom­i­cally vi­tal­ize their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. This in­ter­con­nects his­toric tra­di­tions, phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally to so­cio-eco­nomic vi­tal­iza­tion.

Over the years, the mis­sion of the RTA has evolved and ex­panded to in­clude a cul­tural her­itage cen­tre. The Cen­tre will work to­wards the preser­va­tion and pro­mo­tion of the var­i­ous other tra­di­tions and cul­tures of Bhutan in­clud­ing, oral tra­di­tions, eti­quette and other art forms. The cen­tre will also work to re­search, doc­u­ment and present our cul­ture and tra­di­tional way of life in medi­ums that ap­peal to the young gen­er­a­tion. Ladies and gen­tle­men, it is my earnest be­lief that this sym­po­sium will add sig­nif­i­cantly to the mo­men­tum and will bring us closer to the re­al­iza­tion of cul­tural sus­tain­abil­ity in the face of glob­al­iza­tion. Change is in­evitable but we should be able to in­flu­ence its di­rec­tion and con­tent. Let us dis­card old prac­tices, which are out of tune with hu­man rights and in­di­vid­ual dig­nity. Let us, how­ever, try to save the pre­cious her­itage and tech­niques re­fined over the cen­turies, which, if lost, would im­pov­er­ish the lives of not just this gen­er­a­tion but those of our chil­dren and their chil­dren. Let us strengthen our weak­ened her­itage leg­is­la­tion and ac­ti­vate the range of tools avail­able to help achieve mean­ing­ful her­itage preser­va­tion. Let our cul­tural prac­tices be not only links to our col­or­ful past but help us char­ter a vi­brant fu­ture. Let us pro­vide the av­enue and sup­port for our cul­ture to sus­tain, evolve and thrive. And above all, let us strive to em­brace what His Majesty the King calls, de­vel­op­ment with val­ues.

Thank you and Tashi Delek.

Her Majesty Gya­lyum San­gay Cho­den Wangchuck, de­liv­er­ing her key note ad­dress at the sym­po­sium ti­tled “Cul­tural Sus­tain­abil­ity in the Age of Glob­al­iza­tion” in Wash­ing­ton DC, USA last Thurs­day.

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