Karen Don Dance Proposed for UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage Recognition

The traditional Karen Don dance is to be submitted for nomination to the United Nation Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for inclusion in its Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

The decision to submit the Don dance, a traditional dance of the Karen people was made after a meeting of department heads of the Karen State government and community leaders committed to the preservation of Karen culture.

The proposal will be submitted to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Union Parliament) that will receive all nominations – one each from different States and Regions. The Union Parliament will select five proposals to recommend to UNESCO.

Karen State initially discussed two traditions – the Karen First Harvest Ceremony and the Karen Don Dance – at the meeting organized by Archaeology, National Museum and Library on June 26, 2020 at Hpa-An’s Zwegabin Hall.

The meeting was attended by State government officials and individuals including religious leaders who have leading roles in preserving Karen tradition and cultural heritage, the State’s Literacy and Cultural Committee, Don instructor and dancers – a total of 40 people attended the meeting.

U Bo Bo Wai Maung, the Karen State Social Affair Minister said; “In order to register tradition and cultural heritage with UNESCO, all states selected their topic and submitted it to Pyidaungsu Hluttaw for discussion. The meeting resulted in the Karen State final nomination selected was the Don dance for discussion at the [union level] parliament.”

U Bo Bo Wai Maung said since the Karen Don dance uniqueness is a reflection of the Karen nationality the State government will go ahead with the proposal to get it recognized.

A working committee has been set up to do more research, examine and studied details regarding Don dance, its meaning, dance moves, uniforms, musical instruments and its significance.

Saw Myint Thu, a working committee member and a Don dance expert told Karen News, “I have worked in Don dance for a long time and I have never known of this opportunity. Now, if UNESCO’s recognizes our Karen Don dance in its world heritage listings I will be very happy.”

In 2021 Burma will submit an estimated five topics to UNESCO including the Don dance from Karen State, the Kyam (Crocodile Zither) musical instrument from Mon State and Thanaka from the Magway Region.

Aside from the UNESCO officially recognized World Heritage Sites such as Pyu Ancient Cities and Bagan Archaeological Area and Monuments, records from UNESCO show that there has not been any Intangible Cultural Heritage of the World Cultural Heritage recognized by the UN agency in Burma.

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