Pilot Youth Training Program for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Ladakh
"Through globalization we are flooded by new things, but our culture is still rich and strong. This is the time when we need to preserve our culture. But not by rejecting the new.”
Nilza Angmo, workshop participant
Workshop I: Dehradun
The first youth workshop was inaugurated with an official ceremony at the Songtsen Library in Dehradun. In a speech delivered in English and Tibetan, H.H. Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche underlined the importance of this initiative. He encouraged the program participants, especially the young monks and nuns, to invest time and effort in the program and to see it as an integral part of their spiritual practice, as a form of compassion that will benefit their culture and their communities.
We were able to bring together a very diverse group of participants, monks, nuns and university students, with different interests and talents. Most of them come from several villages of the Sham region (Lower Ladakh) but there are also some from Phyang, the Nubra Valley, and the Changthang highlands.
The first workshop lasted three weeks and was led by Deldan Angmo, Ven. Konchok Pandhay, and Ernesto Noriega. It started with a discussion regarding the rationale for protecting the endangered local heritage and about how relevant its continuity is to the participant’s communities and their own individual lives. This was followed by a debate about the possibility of using the forces of globalization in order to defend and further their culture.
The participants were then exposed to a world-wide panorama of vernacular architecture which underlined the multiplicity of geographical, climatic, social, and cultural factors that contribute to shape such a diversity of habitats. This served as a prologue to a deeper reflection on the specificity of Ladakhi artistic and architectural traditions. The students drew on their own knowledge to produce a body of information that covered building typologies, construction technologies, and local materials.
U.S. based architect Tenzin Thokme was invited to the workshop to talk about his long trajectory from a childhood as a Tibetan refugee and Buddhist novice to his partnership in an avant-garde California architecture firm. His biography, his work, and his role as protagonist at the forefront of modern creativity while at the same time remaining a Buddhist monk, were a great source of inspiration to the young Ladakhis.
The program participants then received a condensed course in architectural drawing. They surveyed the Songtsen Library main building and produced measured drawings including a site plan, floor plans, and elevations. Later they had a chance to make a design of their own.
The main objective of this first workshop had been to bring about a united and motivated group committed to the study, protection and development of their cultural heritage. It can be said that this goal has been attained, and that we now have a solid group to implement the rest of the program. They are aware of the fact that what is at stake is their continuity as a distinct people and they are confident that they can play a positive role in informing and mobilizing the community. As participant Sonam Angmo, a nun from Nubra, said:
“Regarding the protection of buildings, the same way that we wash every day and change our clothes, in the same manner we should repair and maintain our old buildings. Now there are not enough monks and nuns, so we need to spread the awareness among the villagers and the village authorities so they too take care of the religious buildings”
The following is a list of the eighteen participants of the first workshop, including their home villages and their age:
Thinlas Wangchuk, Wanla (16)
Tsewang Gyaltsen, Wanla (17)
Tsering Angmo, Lamayuru (25)
Tashi Dolkar, Bodkharbu (24)
Thubsten Angmo, Tinmosgang (20)
Sonam Angmo, Digar, Nubra (32)
T. Dorje Nakban, Tinmosgang (23)
Konchok Norbu, Hanisku (30)
Konchok Motup, Skurbuchan (30)
Konchok Rinchen, Wanla (20)
Rinchen Gyatso, Phyang (18)
Tsering Norbu, Shachukul (21)
Thundup Namgyal, Lamayuru (23)
Rinchen Dolma, Nurla (26)
Rinchen Angmo, Leh/Wanla (28)
Nilza Angmo, Tinmosgang (25)
Jigmet Namgyal, Tia (27)
Tsering Wangchuk, Tinmosgang (27)