Arts, Humanities & Social Science

Walailak University Promotes UNESCO- Inscribed Intangible Cultural Heritage, Establishing Nora Youth Training Centers in Chumphon and Phatthalung

Nora rehearsal at Nora Youth Training Center, Saard Phaderm Wittaya School, Chumphon province

Walailak University, by the Center for Cultural and Sports Promotion (CSP), has established two Nora Youth Training Centers to preserve and safeguard Nora, a Sothern Thai performing art inscribed as intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

The training centers, established in 2023, are located at Saard Phaderm Wittaya School in Chumphon province and Thairatwittaya 23 (Koknode Temple) School in Phatthalung province.

The fund CSP received for establishing the centers is from the Department of Cultural Promotion, Ministry of Culture. This progress by CSP follows the successful launch of an online Nora course for the public in 2022.

Assistant Professor Dr. Marisa Poomiphak Na Nongkhai said that CSP’s main mission is to promote and safeguard Thai culture and arts. The fact that Nora was inscribed by UNESCO in 2021 made everyone proud. “We are very proud that, in 2021, Nora was inscribed by UNESCO on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” she said.

Dr. Marisa highlighted that CSP has been working with organizations in both public and private sectors and with educational institutions since 2016 to promote Nora. CSP focuses on four strategies: preserving and safeguarding, leveraging research and studies for application, creating added value, and promoting sustainably.

Dr. Pennapa Waiyawek, Head of Nora Youth Training Center Establishment Project, said that each training center has unique characteristics, leading to slight differentiation in operation based on size, number of students, and readiness of students. Nora trainers or teachers have to evaluate students’ skills before classifying them based on their level to ensure the provision of proper training.

At these training centers, students can learn and practice Nora dance and will perform at events once they are ready.

Nora practice at Nora Youth Training Center, Thairatwittaya 23 (Koknode Temple) School, Phatthalung province 

“There are many factors involved in the sustainable promotion of Nora, but the most important factor, I reckon, is networking. Once students have Nora knowledge and skills, a strong network, and a stage to perform, it will contribute to sustainable promotion,” Dr. Pennapa said.

Apart from practicing and learning, and opportunities to perform, income is another crucial factor. At the training centers, students also learn to create Nora beads, bags, and decorations, and sell them to those interested, aligning with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 11 for the promotion of Sustainable Cities and Communities.

In 2022, CSP along with Nora teachers and experts created the online Nora Course for the public to join. Learners got to explore Nora’s history, practice basic Nora dance, learn Nora singing theory, and practice singing. Once passing the 80 percent assessment, they were awarded a Certificate of Course Completion.

“We also introduced Nora to international students at Walailak University through a cultural camp. And looking ahead, we aim to develop the course in English...It is not only for people in the South but also for the whole world to see and learn more about our culture and heritage,” Dr. Marisa added.

Nora, a dance drama in Southern Thailand that usually narrates a story of a prince trying to rescue his half-human, half-bird princess lover through the combination of singing, dancing, and storytelling, was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2021. It was the third Thai intangible cultural heritage inscribed, following Khon-masked dance drama in 2018 and Nuad Thai-traditional Thai massage in 2017, before Songkran-traditional Thai New Year festival was inscribed recently last year.

Nora practice at Nora Youth Training Center, Saard Phaderm Wittaya School, Chumphon province

Nora Youth Training Center, Thairatwittaya 23 (Koknode Temple) School, Phatthalung province

Nora Youth Training Center, Saard Phaderm Wittaya School, Chumphon province

Click here to visit Nora Youth Traning Center website
Photo: Center for Cultural and Sports Promotion
Article: Settaboot Onphakdee, Division of Corporate Communication