Folk Performing Arts in ASEAN

Keynote Speech by Professor Emeritus Surapone Virulrak Ph. D

Folk performing arts are altogether an important part of cultural expression among 600 millions of ASEAN multi-ethnic population. They were originated and performed by the folks for their ritual and social functions within their ethnic boundary and, thus, reflect their ethnic identity. Due to recent social and economic development in the region, their forms have been adopted and adapted to serve other functions and meanings. They were beautified for tourism promotion, standardized for teaching and competing, and modified in search for contemporary aesthetic expression. Some “new” folk performing arts were invented to present the “new” identity of an organization or to display art students’ creativity as required for their graduation. Some ethnic groups created their folk forms through historical re-construction in search of their long gone identities. Folk performing arts research is a new trend today. Therefore, many famous folk artists responded to many interviews, each with different facts and figures. Advanced communication and transportation modernizing the rural life resulted in the rapid disappearing of folk performing arts. However, some folk artists are trying hard to teach the younger generation to preserve their identities. Although folk performing arts are understood to reflect indigenous culture, they share similarity through social integration caused by religious dissemination, trading, war, migration and modern communication among ethnic groups. However, UNESCO, with its Preservation of Intangible Arts policy, endorsed the ownership of a certain kind of performing arts to one specific nation. This policy created dispute among member countries who share similar art forms. The law on intellectual property right which intended to protect the right of folk artists created a complexity in reproducing their performances. Proper preservation and diversification of folk performing arts are necessary because they are playing an important role in paving a common ground to promote the “unity of diversity” of ASEAN.

Keywords: ASEAN, Ethnic Identity, Folk Artists, Indigenous Culture, Right, Preservation, Diversification