Global Vision Awards 2007
Winner: Cultural Preservation
The Sacred Arts of Bhutan
A dance master in Bhutan performs a Buddhist ritual cham for Core of Culture conservationists.
A repository of a very rich, very pure Buddhist tradition, the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has been famously protective of its culture, remaining closed to outside influences, and most visitors, for centuries. But in recent decades, the country has begun to open its doors—a process of modernization that could put Bhutan's heritage at risk, particularly because the kingdom has had little experience with conservation techniques. Enter the Honolulu Academy of Arts, which in 2003 began a multifaceted eight-year project to help document and preserve this intact living history. Conservators from the academy and from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco are training Bhutanese monks and cultural experts in preserving and storing ancient sacred artworks. Core of Culture, a Chicago-based dance-preservation group, is documenting cham (Buddhist ritual dances) and compiling a 350-hour video archive, among other materials. These efforts will culminate in a major traveling exhibition, "The Dragon's Gift," which will open in Honolulu in February 2008 and tour the world for two years, bringing Bhutan's unique culture into the global spotlight for the first time.
Our judge says: "It shows great foresight, using international collaboration to preempt the degradation of Bhutan's culture."—Bonnie Burnham
Our judge says: "The Sacred Arts of Bhutan project lays the foundation for a new tradition—conservation of the country's rich heritage."—Mounir Neamatalla
Visit the Global Vision Awards 2007 article.