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Cultural Documentation Training for Indigenous Communities

In recent years, learning and applying the principles of documentary methods and technologies have emerged as critical strategies for indigenous groups and other cultural communities who wish to maintain, preserve and protect their intangible cultural heritage and intellectual property from appropriation and misuse. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO),External Link based in Geneva, Switzerland, has been prominent in its attempts to provide advice and guidance on legal mechanisms to ensure that IP rights of such groups are respected and upheld.

Tom Rankin and Kip Lagat training with camera at CDS, 2008
(l-r) Kip Lagat, National Museums of Kenya curator and Tom Rankin, CDS Director, practice video documentation, Durham, NC, 2008.
Photo by Guha Shankar.

A collaborative pilot training program conducted by AFC, WIPO, the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, and community partners, the Laikipia Maasai of Kenya, is a notable example of work being done in this arena. The project resulted in large part from the American Folklife Center's role in the US delegation to WIPO's Intergovernmental Committee on Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Traditional Cultural Expressions/Folklore.External Link

This video (Real Media player required) provides an introduction to the training program, the first phase of which was conducted in Fall 2008 at AFC and at CDS. AFC staff member Guha Shankar's 2010 article [PDF/1.6MB] (requires the free Adobe Reader to read the file) summarizes the work accomplished by the project partners. The article discusses both the program in the United States as well as the follow-up training session in Summer 2009 in Laikipia, Kenya, while providing practical perspectives on the implications of cultural sustainability work for cultural workers and indigenous communities. This news release from WIPOExternal Link, includes a link to a video that illustrates the Maasai's development of their documentary techniques and goals for putting the training to use in their community.

John Biewen trains Ole Tingoi and Kip Lagat while Anne Tome watches with April Walton
(l-r) John Biewen, CDS, demonstrates interview techniques to trainees Kip Lagat, Ole Tingoi, and Anne Tome, Durham, NC, 2008.
Photo by Guha Shankar

An interview with Wend WendlandExternal Link of WIPO and an article from WIPOExternal Link also report on the second phase of the project that provided additional training and a hand-over of recording technologies to the Maasai in Summer 2009. CDS director Tom Rankin's postExternal Link on the training program is available on Duke University's web site.



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   June 23, 2011
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