The Centre for Cultural Heritage and Tourism Studies (CHATS) was founded in 2008. The centre aims to foster cultural democracy for all and help sustain indigenous heritage arts and crafts, folklore, healing practices and other aspects of tangible and intangible heritage of South India. It supports the rights of indigenous communities and other culture bearers to sustain and benefit from their arts and other living heritage expressions and practices. It seeks to foster democratic policies and practices of cultural heritage conservation and tourism and ensure that local communities remain key decision makers in conservation and tourism development.
The aim of the interdisciplinary Heritage Arts Initiative (HAI) at CHATS is to research and enable communities to preserve their living heritage. HAI is led by a multidisciplinary team comprising of a cultural anthropologist, designer, art historian, folklorists, artists, technologists, conservation and tourism experts. They seek to promote and create greater respect and value for heritage arts, crafts, other living cultural expressions and wisdoms of indigenous artists, traditional healers and other culture bearers. HAI encourages fair and equitable access to art and culture for all through its Heritage and Youth (HAY) outreach programme’s culturally sensitive and creative workshops for youth, innovative and inclusive heritage arts exhibitions, heritage artist award, and the FILMSaT programme’s lecture demos, seminars and film screenings.
Concerned about the increasing loss of murals and other heritage arts, HAI art and cultural scholars have been researching and collaborating with designers, technologists, conservation and tourism experts in digitizing and creating awareness of the value of South Indian murals in the following Indian Digital Heritage (IDH) projects supported by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India:
The representation, organization and investigation of knowledge-bearing artifacts documented, annotated, narrated and digitized in both these IDH projects are enabled by multi-disciplinary methodologies of digital humanities.
Teaching and advocacy interests of the Director, cultural anthropologist and adjunct faculty at CHATS also include cultural audits of heritage and cultural tourism policies and development projects. They research and develop tourism management plans with communities and other key stakeholders that are sustainable, equitable and responsible. They also facilitate local people, including fisherfolk, farmers, Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalized communities in co-design and development of community owned/managed resource centres, museums and cultural tourism projects.