Arts, Humanities & Social Science

The Preservation of Nora: An Intangible Cultural Heritage of Thailand

Walailak University researcher together with a team of academics and experts create online Nora courses; a concerted effort to help preserve Thailand’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Nora or Manora, a local performing art in Thailand’s south, believed to be the oldest Thailand dance drama, has been facing the challenge of decreasing popularity. Since the advancement of technology and western cultures have become more influential in Thailand’s southern areas, people’s way of living have changed. Nora performance is hard to find; it is only performed in some local communities.

With an endeavor to preserve the art to continue to exist and remain in the south, Walailak University’s researcher: Ms. Pennapa Waiyawek, Center for Cultural and Sports Promotion, and a team of academics and Nora experts have created online Nora courses, disseminating the knowledge and the beauty of this art.

The research study “Development of the Online Nora Dance Training Curriculum” by WU researcher and her team led to the creation of four online Nora courses: (1) Nora dance course, (2) Nora music course, (3) Nora vocal performance course, and (4) Pran Nora (Nora hunter) course. 

“Center for Cultural and Sports Promotion has been promoting Nora since 2016. We had our courses credited by the Ministry of Culture,” said Ms. Pennapa. “Now everyone can learn about Nora from our website, from any device, and free of charge”.

By putting all the lessons divided into chapters which can be easily accessed via the Center for Cultural and Sports Promotion Website, people learn more about Nora and get to practice it. Within four courses, learners get to learn about Nora’s history, practice basic Nora dance, learn about the theory of Nora singing, and practice singing. They get to explore Nora music as well as the musical techniques for Nora performance. They will also learn about Prannora or Nora hunter’s history as well as tactics for performing Prannora. Once the learners pass the 80 percent assessment, they will get the Certificate of Course Completion.

In the past, Nora played an important role in southern people’s lives; creating strong bonds among family members and acting as a way to show gratitude towards ancestors. It entertains people through dancing, music, and verses, portraying a way of living during that time. It influences people to do good and live according to Karma principles. 

In late 2021, United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed Nora as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Thailand, a move that had the potential to create more awareness among youth to help preserve the art and make it more well-known.

Since the launch of Online Nora Courses last year, there have been more than 200 people interested and participating in the program. “We are very proud of this project. I am very impressed seeing children wearing a birdlike costume dancing beautifully, showing pride in our local art,’ said Ms. Pennapa. 

In the future, the Center for Cultural and Sports Promotion, Walailak University, plans to organize workshops to invite people to come and learn more about Nora, brushing up their skills. With the knowledge and awareness youth now have, it is hoped that Nora will always remain in the land of the south.

Access Nora online courses via https://acc.wu.ac.th/courses/nora-dance-course/
Photos by Ms. Pennapa Waiyawek, the Center for Cultural and Sports Promotion, and the Center for Library Resouces and Educational Media.
Article by Settaboot Onphakdee


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