A Documentary for Dialogue
“Indigenous Harp Singer: Development’s Societal Perils and A Moment’s Pause” takes you on an adventure to somewhere rarely seen by the public eye: into the rural mountains of northern Thailand and Kayah, Myanmar.
There, communities of indigenous peoples have for generations been living fairly traditional lives, even in the wake of an encroaching modern world.
This is rapidly changing, however. The global market system and its related modern culture lifestyles is slowly and surely perforating their communities’ cultural social fabric. ‘Traditional’ ways of life are vanishing as economic development and modernity is shoving centuries of learning and indigenous knowledge aside.
In this video, with road construction and capitalism looming, Myanmar’s Toni Oo, who is indigenous ethnic Kayaw, skillfully plays her “zither.” Having mastered this bamboo constructed traditional harp instrument, she performs two ancient ethnic Kayaw songs — about love and nature.
While Toni Oo is sharing her musical gift, other villagers walk us through their community. Together, we discover and observe culturally traditional activities such as rice processing, wood collecting, spiritual practices, all-natural jungle food preparation, music, and courtship dancing.
We are granted a glimpse into their lives.
With a blending of heavy and light-heartedness, this ‘documentary for dialogue’ addresses some of the nuts and bolts of ‘economic development,’ while leaving space for viewer interpretation. We reflect upon the bigger picture in-terms of how changes in environment affect relationships with each other and with our natural world.
This is a global issue. During an era of increasing political and societal unrest, the purpose of this media-art is to reveal and contemplate the shared importance of our varying cultures and the intrinsic value of our heritages.
This is so that we can take a moment’s pause, realize our commonalities, identify some roots of prominent global issues, frame related dialogue, and work towards cultivating our capacity for social unity and peace.
We explore what this may mean for all of Us. If we forget about who we really are, our connection with nature and with each other, what hope is there for any of our survival?