Following the SAARC agenda for culture, Thimphu was declared as the second SAARC Cultural Capital city for 2018, yesterday at the Clock Tower Square in Thimphu.

This means that Thimphu has been selected to host a series of cultural programmes over the next one year where SAARC member states can participate and showcase their unique cultures.

The SAARC cultural capital programme which would end next year in May would see a series of programmes such as the film festival in July, art exhibition and food and music festivals in November this year.

Bamiyan Province of Afghanistan was declared the first SAARC Cultural Capital in 2015.

Director general of department of culture, Karma Weezir, said that Thimphu was selected for the event considering the logistical convenience of the delegates. “More so it is best suited because we have the desired audiences and population where the programmes and exhibitions or displays can be reached to the maximum as Thimphu city has population from almost all the dzongkhags.”

Secretary general of SAARC, Amjad Hussain B Sial, said that the declaration was not only a testimony to the unique beauty and serenity of Thimphu but also a recognition of the sustained efforts of the government and the people for protecting and preserving the pristine environment and making Bhutan the only carbon negative country in the world.

“Culture in any society is the binding force that brings people together. In essence, culture is the fabric of day-to-day life, which shapes the identity of peoples and societies,” he said. “Protection and promotion of cultural values is, therefore, fundamental to the sustainability of human civilisation.”

Chairperson of National Council, Tashi Dorji, said that after Thimphu was declared as the capital in 1961, Thimphu has come to reflect the culture of the country.

Director of SAARC culture centre, Wasanthe Kotuwella, said that innovation and creativity spring from culture and it is the answers to many of the challenges faced by contemporary society. “Investment in culture and creativity has proven an excellent means to revitalise the economy and more importantly to create the culture of happiness for all,” he said. “SAARC cultural capital can provide a city with an opportunity to generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits.”

The launch of the SAARC cultural capital yesterday saw the first event of the series – an exhibition on zorig chusum and handicrafts. Artists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka are participating in the two-day exhibition.

Karma Cheki