Film: “Gyani Maiya” (2019) — Losing the Kusunda-language elder

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No community can express the pain of losing an elder, especially when she was the last fluent speaker of their language. Gyani Maiya Sen Kusunda died on January 25, 2020 in Kulmor village of Dang district in western Nepal, an year and half before this documentary was filmed. From leaving behind the life of a nomad to getting married to a non-nomad to raising a family that could not speak her language, Mrs. Kusunda wished that the Kusunda language is taught to the newer generation. In her own words,

[..] Now none of the Mihaqs (Kusunda people) speak [the language].[..] The girls [have got married and] have left for the villages. Boys are getting married in villages.[..] We left our language and started [speaking] other’s language. It should be taught to others. [..]

Mrs. Kusunda’s younger sister is the only fluent native Kusunda speaker alive. When Gyani Maiya Sen Kusunda was still around and was ailing, Uday Raj Aley, who compiled the first Kusunda-Nepali-English dictionary and served the advisor of this film, approached the local government to create an education program. The government agreed to support and Mr. Aley managed to design, with guidance from Mrs. Kusunda, a pilot education program for the locals. About 20 Kusunda and non-Kusunda speakers joined the program. When this film only captures a glimpse of the Kusunda way of life through the eyes of late Gyani Maiya Sen Kusunda, our only hope is that the future Kusundas revive the language by using it every day.


Gyani Maiya (2019, runtime 25 minutes) is produced by O Foundation and Subhashish Panigrahi with a funding support from National Geographic Society under the ambit of the OpenSpeaks initiative.

Written and Directed by: SUBHASHISH PANIGRAHI

Interviews & translation research: UDAY RAJ ALEY

With additional support from: SANJIB CHAUDHARY & ANANDA K.C




Additional music: Pig Oink Cerdo Sound Effect. FX Sounds (CC-BY-SA 3.0). Goats. Andy_Gardner (CC0 1.0). soca_goatsl.wav. LukeIRL (CC-BY 3.0) Walking barefoot on wooden deck.MP3. SoundsForHim (CCO 1.0), Stream, Water, C.wav, Inspector). (CC-BY 3.0), 13FMokroluskyt_padla.WAV. 13FPanska_Mokrolusky_Tomas (CC0 1.0) Bleating goats. Seenms. CC-BY 3.0 Global Voices story by Sanjib Chaudhary (CC-BY 3.0) Additional Foley sounds recorded by Subhashish Panigrahi, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International

See more in IMDb


    1. Bureau, Himal Khabar. “कुसुन्डा भाषामा बनेको डकुमेन्ट्री ‘ज्ञानीमैया’ को ट्रेलर सार्वजनिक”  (Transl. Trailer of the Kusunda language documentary ‘Gyanimaiya’ released). Himalkhabar.Com, 2020,*/ Accessed 18 July 2020.


About the author(s)

Subhashish P. is one of the founding members of O Foundation and founder OpenSpeaks which won him the MJ Bear Fellowship and a grant from National Geographic to digitally-document threatened languages.

A documentary filmmaker, Open Culture Advocate, and community catalyst over a decade of experience leading community building, outreach and partnership across Asia Pacific at Internet Society, Mozilla, Centre for Internet and Society, and Wikimedia Foundation.

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