KUSUNDA – Speak to Awaken

TRIBECA 2021 - Winner: The Grand Jury Storyscapes Award 
VR NOW AWARDS 2021 - Winner: Best Immersive Cinema, The VR Now Grand Price
RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 - Winner: Best Documentary Experience
NEXTREALITY 2021 - Winner: Best Interactive Entertainment

KUSUNDA is an interactive virtual reality (VR) experience about the sleeping Kusunda language in western Nepal. Co-created by Kusunda shaman Lil Bahadur and his granddaughter Hima, this intergenerational story invites you to support the challenging task of revitalising a dormant indigenous language.

Every two weeks a language falls asleep. Most languages at threat belong to indigenous communities such as Kusunda in Nepal. The Kusunda language has been categorised by linguists as a language isolate, meaning it’s unrelated to any other language family of the world. Due to their nomadic way of life, the Kusunda call themselves “Kings of the Forest.” Currently there are only about 150 people in Nepal who identify as Kusunda.

Lil Bahadur lost his mother tongue when he gave up his hunter gatherer lifestyle to settle in the village. “I spoke the Kusunda language until I was eighteen years old. After [my parents] died the language slowly faded away. I forgot Kusunda when I was separated from my group and had to travel alone. Later I met other people and started speaking the Nepali Khas language,” he says with a sense of resignation.

Lil’s granddaughter Hima, a bright teenager detached from her grandfather’s hunter-gatherer identity, represents a different Kusunda identity and is taking on the challenge to revive her mother tongue. “If the Kusunda language disappears then the existence of the Kusunda people in Nepal will also fade away. We’ll lose our identity. That’s why I want to save our language.”

MUSIC & SOUND DESIGN by Mads Michelsen