Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives
Digital Archive of Cultural Heritage
The Digital Archive of Cultural Heritage is the result of a cooperation agreement (2019) signed by the Cultural Heritage Studies Program (CHSP) at Central European University (CEU) and the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (Blinken OSA) at CEU. Faculty and students at CHSP deal with both material and intangible cultural heritage in their research. In the first phase of this project, the collection of Intangible Cultural Heritage data is made publicly available.
Songs, tales, music, rituals and orally transmitted sacred texts are traditionally treated as important aspects of intangible heritage. Religious teachings of non-bookish religions, oral history, or orally transmitted memories of a community or a family, even the recollections of a person’s life are considered equally important parts of intangible heritage. All these are extremely vulnerable to change in a world which is rapidly transforming due to globalization and technical modernization. This collection of audio and visual materials not only constitutes a body of valuable information on various cultures for researchers, but it is also a cultural repository for the diaspora or younger members of the host communities, who may desire to rediscover their own cultural heritage.
As of December 2020, the Intangible Cultural Heritage collection contains 40 audio and video recordings made by the faculty, students and former students of the CHS Program in different geographical locations connected to various aspects of intangible cultural heritage. Documentation of three research projects is now available in this collection.
Kirgiz epic songs collected by James Plumtree
Six recordings of episodes from the Kyrgyz-language Manas epos were collected in 2017 - 2018, as part of a research project of the Analizing Kyrgyz Narratives (AKYN) Research Group at the American University of Central Asia (AUCA, Bishkek), coordinated by James Plumtree. Three of the recordings are performances of manaschi Talantaaaly Bakchiev (1971-) recorded on October 31, December 12 and December 22, 2017, while the remaining three are performances by manaschi Doolot Sydykov (1983-), recorded on February 16, February 22, and March 1, 2018, respectively. The general aim of the project was to collect and study the current status of Manas performances in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, while variants of the same narrative episode were recorded to study methods of construction of contemporary performers.
James Plumtree is a former CEU Medieval Studies PhD student and Assistant Professor at AUCA.
Yezidi oral tradition collected by Eszter Spãt
This collection contains audio recordings and videos of Yezidi oral tradition made between 2002 and 2017 in Northern Iraq by Eszter Spät. Yezidis are a Kurdish speaking ethno-religious minority group, who follow their own unique religion. During several field research trips to the Yezidi communities of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and of the “disputed territories” of Sheikhan and Sinjar, Spät made recordings touching on various aspects of Yezidi culture, including ritual performances, songs and tales. She also recorded formal interviews as well as spontaneous conversations discussing religion, ritual life and oral history of the recent past.
The first items made public in this collection are recordings of Yezidi laments. Laments (xerîbî/gheribi, dîrok) are songs of pain, loss and separation which are sung for and about the dead. Laments are an exclusively female genre, consequently they have received much less attention than sacred texts or secular songs. Laments used to be an important part of Yezidi oral tradition. They were sung at wakes (tazî), during ritual visits to the graves of the deceased and even at private social gatherings to relieve stress and pain in times of crisis. The genre has been declining in many parts of Kurdistan in the past few decades, with less and less women able to sing xerîbîs. However, it is still an integral part of Sinjari Yezidi culture, where no funeral can take place without women singing laments. The vitality of this genre in Sinjar is reflected in the new laments composed and sung by Sinjari women, which detail the sufferings of Yezidis at the hands of ISIS.
Eszter Spät is a CEU visiting faculty member and CEU Medieval Studies PhD alumna.
Zanskari oral tradition collected by Stanzin Namgail
These recordings of Zanskari oral tradition were collected in 2018 by Stanzin Namgail, a native of Zangla village in the Zanskar Valley of the Indian Himalayas (also known as Western Tibet). Isolated from the rest of the world by high mountain ranges, this region retained its unique local culture well into the second half of the twentieth century. In the past few decades, however, the construction of roads linking the region to the outside word, the arrival of tourism and the socio-economic transformation driven by various aspects of modernization have led to a swift decline of traditional Zanskari culture, including its rich oral tradition. The collection contains oral history interviews conducted by Namgail, as well as recording of tales, songs and other elements of endangered oral tradition.
Stanzin Namgail is a CEU Cultural Heritage Studies MA alumnus.