video | Gyani Maiya (2019 documentary)
Kusunda as a language almost ceased to exist, but the wisdom of one late community elder Gyani Maiya Sen-Kusunda with some external support, is helping children learn a language long forgotten.
"Gyani Maiya" is a documentary film in the critically-endangered Kusunda language of Nepal and was directed and produced by Subhashish Panigrahi with funding support from the National Geographic Society. It was made under the ambit of the OpenSpeaks initiative at the O Foundation.
No community can express the pain of losing an elder, especially when one was presumed to be the last fluent speaker of their language and the language is nearing endangerment. Our 2019 documentary film “Gyani Maiya” captures some of the last documented words of the late Gyani Maiya Sen-Kusunda (1937–2020), who was presumed for long as the only living speaker of the Kusunda language of Nepal. Her semi-nomadic community Gi Mihaq (also known as Kusunda), lost its native tongue to acculturation and other challenges after it started settling in villages. Kusunda boys and girls started getting married outside their community, and their children never got to learn the language. Today, Kusunda is one of the most critically-endangered languages in the entire world. As Gyani Maiya would say, “We left our language and started speaking others’. After me, the language would be dead too. Kusunda should be taught to children.”. She died 1.5 years after the production and never got to see the film centring her narratives. But Uday Raj Aaley, a researcher who played a key role as translator, co-writer and interviewer in “Gyani Maiya”, approached the Nepal government to start an education pilot.
Today, with support from the Nepal Language Council and on-ground linguistic advisory from Gyani Maiya’s sister Kamala Sen Khatri, who was later found to be a fluent Kusunda speaker, an education pilot is helping children learn the language that was nearing death. Gyani Maiya would have loved to see her last dreams come to life.
Gyani Maiya Sen Kusunda (self), Uday Raj Aaley (self), Sanjib Chaudhary (self)
— Director: Subhashish Panigrahi
— Producer: Subhashish Panigrahi
— Screenwriter(s): Subhashish Panigrahi, Uday Raj Aaley, Sanjib Chaudhary
— Country of Origin: Nepal
— Filming location(s): Kulmor, Dang district, Nepal
— Official film page: https://theofdn.org/film/gyani-maiya/
— Entertainment Identifier Registry (EIDR): 10.5240/52AE-86BB-F84D-03B2-D938-U
— Permanent archive: Film (https://archive.org/details/gyani-maiya); Collection (https://archive.org/details/gyani-maiya-collection)
— Unite States Library of Congress LCCN: 2020512171
— EIDR/DOI: 10.5240/52AE-86BB-F84D-03B2-D938-U
— IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12728670/
— ISBN (DVD): 978-93-5701-201-0
— Selected for Bozok Film Festivali 2022, Festival RNAB 2022, Lift-Off Filmmaker Sessions @ PinewoodStudios 2021.