Pilot Youth Training Program for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Ladakh
With the aim of raising awareness and in the long run replacing foreign experts by Ladakhi ones, the Achi Association has launched an initiative with the goal of empowering and enabling local communities to take the task of protecting, maintaining, and managing their cultural heritage into their own hands. The first step in this direction was a three-year ‘Pilot Youth Training Program’ (YTP).
The program was initiated thanks to a grant awarded by the Getty Foundation for this purpose and targeted Ladakhi young men and women who are expected to play an important role in the future of the region’s heritage.
A group of college graduates and young monks and nuns from a dozen different villages have participated in a series of workshops, excursions and field campaigns that have enabled them to explore their vanishing architectural and artistic heritage, raising their awareness on the important role this legacy plays in guaranteeing the continuity of their culture.
This core group of program participants has been exposed to documentation techniques and conservation issues and they have started to acquire the skills necessary to actively participate in the protection and promotion of their heritage.
Workshops have been organised in the Songtsen Library of Dehradun (Uttarakhand/India) and work has been initiated in the village of Wanla, which was chosen as the setting for the training program due to its important historical monuments as well as its conservation challenges. In Wanla, the program participants were able to successfully carry out a documentation exercise. They have produced measured drawings for the historical site and the two adjacent villages. Photographs, sketches, and interviews of elderly community members supplement the information.
A group of school boys and girls from the village have participated in a workshop dealing with heritage protection issues in their community and region. Two members of the core group were able to pass on their newly acquired skills to the younger students and lead them in the task of documenting some historic and religious structures in their village.
The project’s activities for the second year were designed both to continue with the transferring of skills and to strengthen the position of the group among the local population. A team of Achi Association experts trained the core group in documentation techniques of cultural heritage, examination of buildings and art works and the evaluation of damages due to climatic conditions and wear and tear. This knowledge was then passed on to the elder school children group who additionally made a series of interviews with the elder family members about the village history and collected waste around the historic settlement. The third year built on the acquired knowledge and deepened the students’ experience in the field of Ladakhi art and architecture. Always, the theory and the practical work went hand in hand. The last stage of the training focused on the preparation of an exhibition of the students’ documentation of historic Wanla to be shown in the village and in the capital of Leh.