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International Conference on Intangible Cultural Heritage

World Folklore Festival, Gannat, France 2020


Storytelling through Masks: Ritual, Religion, Resistance


Date: 16th October 2020

Online Zoom Registration Link:



Curator/Moderator:                   Dr Vikrant Kishore, Deakin University, Australia

Co-curator:                                Etienne Rougier, Montreal University, Canada


The use of masks especially in dance forms have been since time immemorial. From rituals, religion, resistance to romance, one finds masks utilized in various ways in different cultures across the world. Many mask dance forms are a part of the intangible cultural heritage, while many of these masks, and mask dance forms have disappeared or become extinct, due to lack of practice, patronage, or cultural transmission.  Yet there are many who still continue practicing the use of masks in various ways. This conference will bring together experts/scholars on masks to discuss the use of masks in traditional, ritualistic, ceremonial, religious, tribal, and communal dance forms.


This conference is jointly organized by the National Association Cultures du Monde represented by Dr Vikrant Kishore (Deakin University, Australia), Etienne Rougier (University of Montreal, Canada), and a formidable team of volunteers, students and young professionals from all over the world.



  • Conference Welcome by Dr Vikrant Kishore (conference convener/curator), Deakin University, Australia

  • Welcome on behalf of Gannat International Folklore Festival – Etienne Rougier (conference co-convener), Montreal University, Canada

  • Conference Overview and introduction of the speakers by Dr Nic Leonhardt, Munich University, Germany

  • Opening notes: Vice-Chancellor - Prof Sanjeev Kumar Sharma (Mahatma Gandhi University, India)

  • Keynote: SHARON LOWEN (Celebrated dancer and researcher), India: Storytelling Through Masks: Ritual, Religion, Resistance


  • David Rosales Muyaes, Mexico:  Mexican Masks, Dances and Resistance

  • Prof. Alphousseyni Diato SEYDI, Senegal: Use of Masks In Traditional, Ritual, Ceremonial, Religious, Tribal and Community Dance Forms of Senegal

  • Norah Beatriz Valverde Tapia and Raissa Sofía Torrico Valverde, Bolivia: Masks in Bolivian Culture, and International Folklore Festival “La Danza Integradora de Culturas”

  • Vikrant Kishore & Dhvani Joshi, Australia: Rasa-aesthetics of the Purulia Chhau Dance Masks

  • Q&A Session

Conference Speakers:





































































































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Sharon Lowen (India): Sharon Lowen is a renowned performing artist, scholar and teacher of Indian dance: Odissi, Manipuri, and Chhau.  She first arrived in India as a Fulbright scholar nearly 50 years ago after degrees in Humanities, Fine Arts, Asian Studies and Dance from the University of Michigan. Across the globe she has fostered understanding and appreciation of Indian culture with many 100s of concerts and lecture-demonstrations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, Brazil, Japan, Kuwait, Dubai, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Slovak Republic, Ukraine, Poland and throughout India. The first women solo performer of Chhau, a previously all-male form, Sharon introduced Mayurbhanj Chhau to the U.S.A. at the 1978 Asian Dance Festival in Hawaii, performed at the Olympic Arts Festival of Masks in Los Angeles and created two Chhau ballets combining Mayurbhanj and Seraikella Chhau for Doordarshan National Program of Dance. Her interest in masked dance stems from her pre-India years in puppetry performing solo and with the Detroit Institute of Art’s Puppet Theatre symphony collaborations as well as for the Puppeteers of America convention, among others. Jim Henson’s invitation to join the Muppets was reluctantly turned down in favor of the Fulbright to India. Learning a masked form of Chhau to perform at 3 Festivals of Masks in Los Angeles and curating several exhibitions of her mask collections in India and the USA was a link to this passion. Her books include Odissi Dance, Art Without Frontiers – Classical Dance and Music of India and Shringara in Classical Indian Dance and she is the founder of Manasa - Art Without Frontiers.

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Dr Nic Leonhardt, Munich University, Germany: Dr Leonhardt is a theatre and media historian as well as a writer based in Munich. She studied Theatre Studies and Audiovisual Media, German Philology and Art History at the Universities of Erlangen-Nürnberg and Mainz and received a Dr. phil. in Performance and Media Studies from the University of Mainz (2006). Her scholarly activities are characterized by a strong interdisciplinary approach and focus on global theatre, media and popular cultures at the turn of the 20th century as well on contemporary visual and urban cultures and Digital Humanities. Nic worked as a researcher, lecturer and coordinator at the University of Music Cologne (2000-2002), the University of Music and Theatre in Leipzig (2006-2007), and the Cluster of Excellence “Asia & Europe in a Global Context” (Heidelberg University, 2008-2010). In 2007, she held the position of a guest lecturer (“Gastdozentin”) at the German Department of Barnard College and Columbia University, New York. From 2010 to 2015 Nic was the associate director of the international research project Global Theatre Histories (LMU Munich); from 2015 to September 2016 she was visiting professor for Inter Artes at the University of Cologne. Since October 2016, Nic Leonhardt has been associate director of and senior researcher with the ERC project “Developing Theatre”, LMU Munich.


Professor Sanjeev Kumar Sharma, Vice Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi Central University, India. Professor Sharma, is presently Vice Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Motihari (Bihar), since April 2019. Former Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut (U.P.), General Secretary and Treasurer, Indian Political Science Association (IPSA) (for a decade), Editor of The Indian Journal of Political Science (for almost a decade), founder Editor of Bhartiya Rajniti Vigyan Shodh Patrika, the Hindi journal of the IPSA, throughout first class with National Merit Scholarship, Dr. Sharma has taught Political Science for more than thirty-five years, supervised 17 Ph.D, 64 M. Phil and 37 Post Doctoral Fellows. He has published 68 research papers, 42 articles, 16 reviews, 19 edited or authored books and monographs. He has attended international academic events in various countries including US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Spain, Poland, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Jordan, China, South Africa. He has chaired, participated, and delivered Keynote, Inaugural and Valedictory Addresses and Special Lectures in more than 400 seminars, conferences, refresher courses and orientation programmes throughout the country. He has handled several research projects. His main areas of interest are Political Sociology, Ancient Indian Polity, and Indian Political System. He is academically associated with more than 150 universities of the country in different capacities. A widely travelled academician and extensively experienced in educational administration, he has an exceptional knowledge of Sanskrit.

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David Rosales Muyaes, Mexico: David Rosales Muyaes is a Social Psychologist and a former High School teacher whose interest in the world of masks and dances began in the cradle, or maybe in the uterus. We won’t discuss the old debate nature vs nurture. Who knows. Anyway. He was raised, so was his mother, in a very peculiar place called “the house of the masks”, located in the middle of Mexico City. Mixed of a museum and a spiritual retreat house, this place was, at the begging, a project originated by David’s grand parents: Khaled Muyaes and Estela Ogazón; both fascinated persons about the history of Mexico and it’s culture, and both, obsessed collectors of masks and other objects: such as books, magazines, several antique objects, but specially unvaluable people with intangible hearts and spirits. This family project has had the concern for more than 70 years to share and spread the symbolical, historical and aestetic value of the Mexican mask and dances, but also to understand anthropological and ethnographic phenomena. As a Social Psychologist with interests in politics and social cognition, David describes processes of social dominance and social resistance exemplified in some Mexican dances that use masks. When he has time to go on vacation, he likes to go to carnivals and dances to take some pictures of dances, but, of course, from time to time, he likes to go to the beach just to enjoy the sand.

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Prof. Alphousseyni Diato Seydi, Senegal: Prof Seydi is a researcher and a teacher. He is one of the leading experts on Senegalese mask art form. He has trained as a visual arts teacher at the National School of Arts (ENA). Holder of the Master of visual art on the theme: The Kankourang, initiation mask of the Mandinka of Senegambia and of the DFESA, He has a professional license training in Multimedia Creation - Audio-visual from the Assane SECK University of Ziguinchor. He has participated in number of international conferences and seminars, and has held exhibitions of his artwork, he held residency and Art Exhibition at FESTI ’KOLDA, participated in the Residence of the Zig''Art Association of Ziguinchor at the Diabir Art Complex in Ziguinchor, and recently he participated in the exhibition of artists from Casamance at the Town Hall of Sédhiou, during the Sédhiou International Festival (FIS).


Norah Beatriz Valverde Tapia, Bolivia: Norah is a Bolivian cultural manager, professor and dancer who dedicated her whole life to her passion: dance. She started dancing professionally Bolivian folk dances when she joined the Bolivian National Ballet at the age of sixteen, with which she represented her country several times in Latin America and Europe. Furthermore, Norah Valverde has a degree in Social Communication and wrote her thesis “The folkloric ballet: a means for the communication – Conceptual systematization proposal” (El ballet folclórico: un medio para la comunicación – Propuesta de sistematización conceptual), after having created and founded in 1986, the first university folk dance cast in Bolivia, the Ballet Folclórico of the Universidad Católica Boliviana “San Pablo” (BFUCB) in the city of La Paz. She is until now her director and choreographer and since its creation, she has lead the group to represent Bolivia in several international tours and events around the world in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, France, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and Venezuela spreading Bolivian folk dance and music. For almost twenty years, Norah Valverde was also a professor of Ethnography and Folklore in the Tourism Administration Department of the Universidad Católica Boliviana “San Pablo” (UCB) and, a few years ago, she was also named Vicepresident of the Dance Artists’ Association (Asociación de Artistas de la Danza ASOADANZ) of the city of La Paz. In 2011, she created the first International Folk Dance Festival in the city of La Paz-Bolivia, “La Danza Integradora de Culturas” (FIDIC), which aims to create a space where we can spread culture and strengthen cultural ties with other countries and contribute not only to Bolivian tourism, but also to national pride, while showing the world from "home" the wealth and diversity of Bolivian culture thanks to an event that brings together professionals of tradition and folklore. Thanks to her work, she was honored twice (2001 and 2011) by the Bolivian Vice ministry of Culture for her contribution to the country as a Cultural manager in the folklore dance field.

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Raissa Sofía Torrico Valverde, Bolivia: Raissa is a Bolivian dancer and folklore lover who despite her professional career in the Aviation and Aeronautics field, works in different cultural events since several years now thanks to her mother, Mrs. Norah Valverde, who introduced her to the dance world and more specifically to Bolivian folk dance and with who she participates closely in different cultural projects. She started to dance at the age of four when she joined Bolivia’s Official Ballet and started with Bolivian folk dance at the age of eight in the group that her mother leads: the Ballet Folclórico of the Universidad Católica Boliviana “San Pablo” (BFUCB) in the city of La Paz- Bolivia, one of the most representative groups of Bolivian folk dance in her country. Nowadays, after being a student for more than 15 years in this cast, she is a permanent dancer in this same group with which she represented her country in several international folk festivals and encounters since 2011 in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, France, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Serbia, Slovenia and Spain, sharing her passion for Bolivian traditions and culture. Furthermore, since some years now, she works in different international folklore festivals in France and Bolivia. Since 2015, she works as a volunteer guide and interpreter in France for renowned international folklore festivals such as the Gannat Festival “Les Cultures du Monde” and for the Port-sur-Saône Festival “Spectacles du Monde” with groups from Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Palestine, among others. In Bolivia, she works since 2011, for the International Folk Dance Festival “La Danza Integradora de Culturas” (FIDIC) as part of the organizing team, group guide and officially since 2016, as its International Relations manager.

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Dhvani Joshi, Australia: Dr. Dhvani Joshi is a researcher and an academic. She was awarded Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) for her research on Adaptation Studies of Fiction into Cinema with an Interdisciplinary focus. Dhvani has worked as a Lecturer of Mass Communication and Cinema Studies at the MK Bhavnagar University (in India). Dhvani is a trained Indian Classical Dancer in an Indian dance form called Bharatanatyam and loves to choreograph as well as perform.


Dr Ambrish Saxena, India: Dr Saxena is professor and Dean, DME Media School, Delhi Metropolitan Education, Noida. He is also Director of DME Studios and Production and Director of IQAC in DME. 
He has worked on all media platforms. In print, he has held senior positions in The Pioneer, Our Leader, Aaj and Amrit Bazar Patrika Group. In Radio, he has been anchoring business programme Market Mantra on AIR FM Gold for 20 years. In TV, he has worked with Vinod Dua for Parakh news magazine on Doordarshan in 1990s. In films, he has worked in the projects of Films Division and National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). 
As an academician, he has visited Australia, China, United States and European countries. He has 40 books to his credit as sole author, main author, chapter writer and editor. He has participated in more than 50 national and international conferences as paper presenter, chairperson of sessions or distinguished guest in special sessions. He is associated with more than 20 universities and institutions of higher learning as member of Academic Council, BOD, DRC, SRC and CRC. As researcher he has handled 2 research projects in IIMC - An Assessment Study of All India Radio [Ministry of Information and Broadcasting] and Media Coverage of Health Issues in South East Asian Countries [World Health organization -WHO]. 


Mudita Raj, India: Mudita has keen interest in Literature, Psychology, Folk Philosophy, Poetry, Theatre, and Symbolism. She has published 4 research papers in various inter-disciplinary fields. She has written research papers on “Use of Archetypes for representation of women in Hitchcock’s Films”, “Representation of Muslims in media and their perception.”, “Dream Interpretation and Understanding the Unconscious” and  "Role of Folk Stories in shaping women behavior". She has various non-academic publications as well and has written for publishing houses like Chicken Soup for the Soul and Paperless postcards. She has volunteered with various NGOs and is currently working with Delhi Metropolitan Education.  


Convener & Curator: Dr Vikrant Kishore, Deakin University, Australia

Dr Kishore is an academic, filmmaker, photographer, author and a journalist; he has more than 25 documentaries and corporate films to his credit. Currently working at Deakin University, Australia as Course Director for Film, Television and Animation. He has organized various international conferences, film festivals and seminars on Indian cinema. Dr Kishore has been actively working for the safeguard and preservation of the cultural heritage of East India; especially Chhau dance. Dr Kishore is an active member of International Dance Council (CID-UNESCO) and Association Nationale Cultures and Tradition (ANCT, France). He has been a jury member in various film festivals, such as ATOM Awards (Australia), Real Film Festival (Newcastle) and Doordarshan National Awards (India). He was a pre-jury member for The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA) Awards (2018). Dr Kishore is the producer of An Australian Film Initiative’s Australian Film Festival of India. Dr Kishore’s areas of research are Asian and Indian Cinema, Indian folk and popular culture, reality television programmes and caste politics in India. Dr Kishore is the author of the book “From Real to Reel: Folk Dances of India in Bollywood Cinema”, published by UNESCO-Apnieve, and he has co-edited three books - “Bollywood and its Other(s)” (published by Palgrave Macmillan), Salaam Bollywood (published by Routledge) and Indian Cinema – Filmic Content, Social Interface and New Technologies (published by Kanishka).


Co-convener: Etienne Rougier, Montreal University, Canada
Graduated from the University of Lyon in Modern Literature, Etienne Rougier developed an interest in anthropology, focusing on philosophy of language, performativity, and then endangered languages and linguistic registers. He started his MA in Linguistic Anthropology in September 2017 under the direction of John Leavitt and Luke Fleming at the University of Montreal. He presented an ethnolinguistic dissertation based on the case study of the linguistic revitalization of northern-occitan dialects situated between France & Italy: a documentation of the social groups using the language and performing it. Especially interested by traditional music and oral transmission, he joined various research groups on indigenous languages (ie Tarahumara - TAC in Mexico, Innu - ALG and Innuktitut - IKU in Canada); with the aim of carrying out, in the framework of a thesis, a comparative analysis of endangered languages and revitalizations. Also involved in his native country, Auvergne (France), he is a member for many years of the Festival Les Cultures du Mondes of Gannat; representing the NGOs activities, such as the International Conferences of Gannat. He is now working on the project of opening an associative school in the Auvergnat language, in order to participate in the survival of the linguistic and cultural heritage of this Occitan region.


Conference webinar coordinator: Anurag Singh, India

An Independent Documentary Film maker, Theatre Actor, Passionate Writer, Debater & Mentor, he started his career with making Documentary and Films on subjects on Life, Education, Industrial Development & women empowerment. His First Documentary Film 'Moksha' is internationally Acclaimed in Spiritual Film Festival 2006 held in Thailand, Japan and Goa. Apart from Independent Films, he has been worked with Yashi Films and production as Creative Director /writer and has put up Shows like Big Memsaab Season 6 & 7 ,8 sessions and Hindustaan ka Big Star aired on Big TV. He has been  associated with famous Bollywood director   Avinash Das,Prakash Jha, Sudhir Mishra and Mike Pandey ,Mani Shankar. He has also worked as Programme Producer in Doordarshan, VIP News (Sadhna Group), Live India, India News, Janmat,India tv,Miditech. He worked in more than fifteen plays as a Actor and associate director, his plays 'Ek Ziddi Ladki' and 'Anveshak' have been appreciated in National Theatre Festival held in Delhi at National School of Drama & Sri Ram Center of Performing Arts. He has worked in varied fields of Journalism and Mass Communication. He has been academically associated with IP University, Marwah Studios, India News ITV Media Institute, Vivekananda Institute of professional studies & Jagannath University.

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