Very often, we hear leaders and elders talk about the importance of preserving culture and encouraging youngsters and students in particular to participate in preserving that culture. While it is necessary to encourage preserving culture, it is also equally important to understand that you cannot preserve something that is no longer in existence. Further, it must also be kept in mind that preserving culture, or an aspect of it, could simply mean keeping something safe in a museum. The language we use when we talk about important issues gives meaning to the idea and when we use the wrong language, we risk misinterpreting the whole idea of it. A culture is lived and not something that is preserved in a museum or the locker. Further, encouraging youngsters to preserve one’s culture with mere words without ever giving them the real life opportunities to learn is pointless. Words of encouragement should be backed up with action. More than inspiration, we need action. It is also wrong on the part of the elders to blame the youngsters for not upholding cultural values when the elders have in the first place failed to teach the youngsters themselves. We want the best results without undergoing the arduous process; we expect our youngsters to preserve culture while we do not have time to teach them.
Weaving, for instance, is an indigenous art form that is intrinsically associated with our culture. However, we know that the traditional method of weaving is slowly dying away. It is fortunate for us that it is not a completely forgotten art, at least not till now. Here, we talk about preserving culture but what are we doing about it other than talk? Once the art form is lost, it will be pointless to talk about preserving it. Similarly, from the tangible to the intangible, almost all of our traditional art forms and cultural heritage are faced with the threat of being lost forever. There has to be a real, serious, conscious and concerted effort at various levels if we are to keep culture safe from being forgotten. Besides, we need individuals who dedicate their lives to the cause of keeping culture and tradition safe from extinction. So also, we need institutions that work in this field. As society evolves and the times change, culture and tradition are also bound to evolve and change. Thus, we need individuals and institutions that work on it to ensure that tradition and culture does not become a mere cosmetic practice, to ensure that the inherent values are not lost to synthesis during the process. Culture must be lived, not merely preserved.