Thailand proposes masked drama as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat stated that Thailand had proposed the khon masked drama to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for listing as an intangible cultural heritage item.

thailand proposes masked drama as unesco intangible cultural heritage hinh 0

Intangible cultural heritage refers to the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, and skills transmitted by communities from generation to generation. According to UNESCO, intangible heritage items are based on tradition or are living expressions inherited from ancestors and passed on to successors.

UNESCO established its Intangible Cultural Heritage list with the aim of ensuring the better protection of important intangible cultural heritage items worldwide and the awareness of their significance.

The khon masked drama was submitted to UNESCO under the name "khon.” Results of the submission are expected to be known in late 2018.

Khon is a classical masked dance derived from Indian temple rituals and dances and draws its story line from the Ramakian, the Thai version of the Indian epic Ramayana.

All performers, except those in the roles of deities and humans, wear masks to portray precisely defined and identifiable characters. During the performance, the narrator and singers jointly relate the story.

In the past, the khon was restricted to entertainment for the king, who had the exclusive right to order a performance in royal ceremonies.

A khon performance used only male performers. Nowadays, the "female” characters are portrayed by females. The performers on stage do not sing or talk but must dance in harmony with the music.

The Culture Minister said that the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are joining hands in launching a project to publicize Thai arts and culture and promote relations with six European countries, namely Italy, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Germany, and Belgium.

Under this project, khon performances and other cultural programs are being staged in these countries between May 7 and 27, 2018.

Apart from cultural shows, there is also an exhibition in honor of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of the Ninth Reign in recognition of her role in preserving the classical khon masked drama.

Her Majesty would like to see younger performers learn the art of masked drama from the older generation and inherit the national cultural heritage.