Updates from the Indic Oral Culture Project

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The Indian subcontinent is known for its profound cultural and linguistic diversity. The form of cultural expression, transmitted through generations via folk songs, folk tales, and oral history, contributes significantly to the diversity of this region.

Our preceding Diff article, “Strategies to bring more Indic languages on Wikimedia projects: research findings“, highlighted the imperative need for innovative methodologies to enrich the representation of Indic languages. Notably, the recommendation to “Move out of text-centrism and employ innovative approaches” prompted the inception of a project dedicated to addressing a substantial gap – the underrepresentation of Indic oral culture.

“No human culture is inaccessible to someone who makes the effort to understand, to learn, to inhabit another world.”

–  Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The Indic Oral Culture Project

To bridge this perceptible gap, we organized an experimental project “Indic Oral Culture Project”. The initiative was structured to provide a comprehensive framework for diverse language communities, guiding them systematically in the documentation of their distinctive oral traditions. The project aims to contribute to the overarching objective of rendering Wikimedia a more inclusive repository of human knowledge.

The Plan

We extended invitations to individuals from diverse backgrounds, including linguists, researchers, and Wikimedians through telegram groups, one-to-one meetings and via mailing lists and received a substantial number of responses from individuals. Some team members, comprising mostly non-Wikimedians, had been onboarded prior to the project’s initiation, prompting the arrangement of specialized training sessions for them.

The training approach shifted from the original plan of delivering all sessions at once to a phased structure, covering introduction, field work preparation, video uploading, and transcription separately. To ensure a shared understanding and to bring everyone to a common starting point, the sessions were designed to commence from the basics. We conducted a number of training sessions including group sessions and one-to-one sessions with different teams based on their specific requirements, aiming to facilitate a smoother integration into the Wikimedia workflow.

Participation and Progress

Nine teams joined the project representing distinct languages such as Marathi, Odia, Eastern Tharu, Tulu, Tamil, Telugu, Marma, Garo, Chak and Ahirwati. While most of the teams created content in their own language, the NDCE team captured content in Marma, Garo & Chak languages. The participants hailed from India, Bangladesh, and Nepal, comprising both wikimedians and non-wikimedians. Moreover, we received interest from African and Arabic participants who wished to join the project. We welcomed these requests and offered training to all interested parties. The detailed activities have been mentioned here.

During this project, participants recorded and uploaded content to Wikimedia Commons, totaling 147 files, consisting of 142 videos and 5 audio recordings. Participants from diverse languages and regions recorded folk tales and folk songs practiced in their region.

Here are the links to examples of recorded folk song and folk tale respectively.

V’ Mera e beer ne heli chinwai’, Priyanka yadav jhadodiya


During the course of the project, we have learned a few substantial things and observed areas for improvement. The primary learning is that having prior knowledge about the culture and individuals involved in video creation is desirable for oral culture documentation. It not only streamlines the process and enhances interaction but also prevents last-minute interruptions to the schedule.

Facing network instability is a frequent challenge when engaging in online projects. Despite having an overall positive experience, one of our teams encountered network disruptions.

Some participants faced errors upon using video2commons for video uploads, they had to upload the videos directly to commons. This meant that they had to resort to third-party software for video conversion and size reduction, a multi-step and lengthy process.

Way Forward

If you’re interested in collaborating with us, you can check out the Indic Oral Culture User Group on Meta-wiki. Feel free to reach out to us at amritsufi2@gmail.com.

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