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6 Dec, 2012

UNESCO’s Latest 31 Additions to Intangible Heritage List To Preserve Art, Music & Traditions


PARIS, More than 600 experts, officials and practitioners from more than 110 countries met at UNESCO Headquarters from 3 to 7 December to take stock of the world’s intangible cultural heritage and the global measures underway to safeguard it. The 24 members of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage are taking stock of the progress made by States Parties on the legal, regulatory or other measures taken to safeguard intangible cultural heritage in their countries.

Intangible cultural heritage encompasses practices and living expressions handed down from one generation to the next. These living traditions are constantly recreated by communities in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history. This dynamism is precisely what makes culture such a powerful force for dialogue, exchange and understanding between peoples. Safeguarding living traditions helps to harness the power of cultural diversity for more cohesive societies and a more peaceful world. It is an important way to support practices that are vital for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and to set strong foundations for sustainable development.

UNESCO has led the way in expanding the definition of cultural heritage, which was long considered as being limited to monuments and works of art. For UNESCO, cultural heritage must encompass not only historic vestiges but also all living culture. As UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, explains, “Intangible cultural heritage is our bridge from the past to the future. It is the way we understand the world and the means by which we shape it. It is a foundation of wisdom and knowledge upon which to build sustainable development for all. Intangible cultural heritage is the precious possession of communities, groups and individuals – only they can safeguard it and pass it on to generations to come.”

Intangible Cultural Heritage includes 5 broad domains:

The following elements is a list of the intangible heritage applications approved on Dec 4 and 5. More will be finalised on Dec 6 & 7:

Earthenware pottery-making skills in Botswana’s Kgatleng District, Botswana

Women of the Bakgatla ba Kgafela community of Botswana practice earthenware pottery-making skills using clay soil, weathered sandstone and other materials to make pots of different forms, designs and styles that relate to the traditional rituals and beliefs of the community. Pots are used for storing beer, fermenting sorghum meal, fetching water, cooking, ancestral worship and traditional healing rituals. The practice is at risk of extinction because of the decreasing number of master potters, low prices for finished goods and the increasing use of mass-produced containers.

Noken multifunctional knotted or woven bag, handcraft of the people of Papua (Indonesia)

Noken is a knotted net or woven bag handmade from wood fibre or leaves by communities in Papua and West Papua Provinces of Indonesia. It is used for carrying produce, catch, firewood, babies or small animals as well as for shopping and for storing things in the home. Noken may also be worn or given as peace offerings. The number of people making and using Noken is diminishing, however, in the face of competition from factory-made bags and problems obtaining raw materials.

Ala-kiyiz and Shyrdak, art of Kyrgyz traditional felt carpets,  Kyrgyzstan

Traditional felt carpets represent one of the foremost arts of the Kyrgyz people. The knowledge, skills, diversity, ornamentation and ceremonies involved provide Kyrgyz people with a sense of identity and continuity. Their creation is a communal enterprise led by older women in rural, mountainous areas, but the tradition is in danger of disappearing. The number of practitioners is diminishing and the lack of governmental safeguarding, the disinterest of the younger generation, the dominance of cheap synthetic carpets, and the poor quality and low availability of raw materials are exacerbating the situation.

Bigwala, gourd trumpet music and dance of the Busoga Kingdom, Uganda

The Basoga people of Uganda traditionally practice Bigwala music and dance during royal celebrations and social occasions. A set of five or more monotone gourd trumpets are blown in combination, accompanied by drum players, singers and dancers. Song lyrics narrate the history of the Basoga people, focusing in particular on their king. At present, there are only four remaining older master bearers with skills in Bigwala performance. As a result, Bigwala is performed infrequently and faces a real threat to its survival.

Rites and craftsmanship associated with the wedding costume tradition of Tlemcen, Algeria

During the wedding ritual of Tlemcen in northwestern Algeria, the bride is dressed in a traditionally woven golden silk dress, surrounded by her friends and married female relations; symbolic henna designs are applied to her hands, and an older woman helps her don a caftan of embroidered velvet, jewelry and a conical hat. Girls in Tlemcen are initiated into the costume tradition at an early age, while the craftsmanship involved in making the precious wedding costume is transmitted from generation to generation.

Performance of the Armenian epic of ‘Daredevils of Sassoun’ or ‘David of Sassoun’, Armenia

The traditional Armenia epic Daredevils of Sassoun recounts the story of David of Sassoun, a defiant youth who defended his homeland in an unequal duel against the evil. This heroic epic is recounted and sung in sections in a lyrical voice with rhythmic enunciation. It is performed, usually sitting, to the musical accompaniment of a duduk during weddings, birthdays, christenings and major national cultural events. There are 160 variants and performances may last up to two hours.

Schemenlaufen, the carnival of Imst, Austria

The city of Imst celebrates its Fasnacht carnival every four years on the Sunday before the Christian season of Lent. The central festivity is Schemenlaufen, a procession of masked, costumed dancers. The main characters wear bells and perform a special musical dance of jumps and bows. Masked chimney sweeps climb houses, witches shout at the audience accompanied by a band playing dissonant melodies, and bears demonstrate their strength. The carnival unites the whole population of Imst in a common goal: organizing the Fasnacht in accordance with long-standing tradition.

Craftsmanship and performance art of the Tar, a long-necked string musical instrument, Azerbaijan

The Tar is a long-necked plucked lute crafted and performed throughout Azerbaijan. It features in numerous traditional musical styles and is played at weddings and socials gatherings, festive events and concerts. The hollow body, made of mulberry wood, is shaped in the form of a figure eight and is held horizontally, while the eleven metal strings are plucked with a plectrum. Craftspeople pass on their skills to apprentices, and players transmit their skills by word of mouth and demonstration to young people within their community.

Marches of Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse, Belgium

The Marches of Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse are a major component of the cultural identity of Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse in Wallonia, Belgium. These military marches commemorate the dedication of the village church and feature the participation of the entire village. The escorted processions consist of several companies, grouping tens, even hundreds of marchers. The participants dress in military uniforms, forming one or more companies that escort the religious procession, accompanied by drums, fifes and songs. Young people march alongside their parents in the Young Guard or other companies.

Ichapekene Piesta, the biggest festival of San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia

The Ichapekene Piesta festival combines the founder myth of the victory of Ignacio de Loyola with Moxeño indigenous beliefs. Festivities involve fireworks, singing, celebrations of masses, funeral wakes, alms-giving and feasts. The main rituals are a representation of the victory of Saint Ignatius and a choreographed procession of participants disguised as masked ancestors and animals. They reinforce the importance of respect for nature, and allow the Moxeños to be reborn into the Christian tradition in the presence of their ancestral spirits.

Frevo, performing arts of the Carnival of Recife, Brazil

Frevo is a Brazilian artistic expression comprising music and dance, performed mainly during the Carnival of Recife. Its quick frenetic and vigorous rhythm draws upon the fusion of musical genres such as marching music, Brazilian tango, square dance, polka and pieces of classical repertoire, performed by martial bands and fanfares. The music is essentially urban, and like the accompanying dance, ‘Passo’, is vigorous and subversive. The dance stems from the skill and agility of capoeira fighters, who improvise leaps to the electrifying sound of steel orchestras and bands.

Festival of Saint Francis of Assisi, Quidbó, Colombia

Every September and October the twelve Franciscan districts of Quibdó, Colombia, hold the Fiesta de San Pacho, a religious celebration of the community’s Afro-descendant Chocó identity. It begins with a Catholic ‘Inaugural Mass’ blended with traditional dances and chirimía music. A carnival parade follows with floats, costumes, dances and chirimía. Morning masses are celebrated with floats and carnival groups in the afternoon. Towards the end, the patron saint travels the Atrato River, and people celebrate the dawn with devotional hymns and perform the Grand Procession of the Saint.

Klapa multipart singing of Dalmatia, southern Croatia, Croatia

Klapa singing is a multipart singing tradition of Dalmatia. Multipart singing, a capella homophonic singing, oral tradition and simple music making are its main features. The leader of each singing group is the first tenor, followed by several tenori, baritoni and basi voices. During performances, the singers stand in a tight semicircle, and the first tenor starts the singing, followed by the others. The aim is to achieve the best possible blend of voices. Klapa songs deal with love, life situations, and the local environment.

Traditional weaving of the Ecuadorian toquilla straw hat, Ecuador

The toquilla straw hat is woven from fibres from a palm tree of the Ecuadorian coast. Farmers cultivate the toquillales and harvest the stems before separating the fibre from the outer skin. This is boiled to remove chlorophyll and dried for bleaching. Using this fibre, weavers produce the pattern, the crown and the brim of the hat and complete the process by washing, bleaching, oven treatment, ironing and pressing. Weaving a hat can take from one day to eight months, depending on its quality and finesse.

Fest-Noz, festive gathering based on the collective practice of traditional dances of Brittany, France

Fest-Noz is a festive gathering based on the collective practice of traditional Breton dances, accompanied by singing or instrumental music. The Breton cultural movement has preserved this expression of a living and constantly renewed practice of inherited dance repertoires with several hundred variations, and thousands of tunes. The Fest-Noz is characterized by an intense camaraderie among singers, musicians and dancers, significant social and intergenerational diversity, and openness to others. It is at the centre of an intense ferment of musical experiences and has spawned a veritable cultural economy.

Folk art of the Matyó, embroidery of a traditional community, Hungary

The folk art of the Roman Catholic Matyó community in and around the town of Mezőkövesd in north-eastern Hungary is characterized by floral motifs that are found in flat-stitch embroidery, interior decoration and architecture. The national popularity of Matyó embroidery has made it into a form of auxiliary income, enabling women to buy the fine fabrics and supplies necessary for making elaborate costumes. Most often practised as a communal activity, embroidery strengthens interpersonal relationships and community cohesion, while allowing for individual artistic expression.

Buddhist chanting of Ladakh: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir, India

In the monasteries and villages of the Ladakh region of India, Buddhist lamas (priests) chant sacred texts representing the spirit, philosophy and teachings of the Buddha. The monks wear ritual clothing and use hand gestures and various musical instruments while praying for the spiritual and moral well-being of the people, for purification and peace of mind, to appease the wrath of evil spirits or to invoke the blessing of various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, deities and rinpoches. Acolytes learn under the rigorous supervision of senior monks.

Qālišuyān rituals of Mašhad-e Ardehāl in Kāšān, Iran

Qālišuyān rituals commemorate Soltān Ali, a holy martyr among the people of Kāšān and Fin. According to legend his body was found and carried in a carpet to a stream where it was purified. Qālišuyān takes place at the Soltān Ali mausoleum where a carpet is washed in a holy stream by a huge gathering. People of Xāve gather to sprinkle rosewater on the carpet, which is then delivered to the people of Fin, who rinse it in running water, and sprinkle rosewater drops with decorated wooden sticks.

Traditional violin craftsmanship in Cremona, Italy

Cremonese violin craftsmanship is renowned for its traditional process of fashioning violins, violas, cellos and contrabasses. Each violin-maker constructs from three to six instruments per year, shaping and assembling more than 70 pieces of wood around an inner mould by hand, according to the different acoustic response of each piece. Every part is made with a specific wood, carefully selected and naturally well seasoned. Craftsmanship requires a high level of creativity to adapt techniques and personal knowledge to each instrument. No two violins are alike.

Nachi no Dengaku, a religious performing art held at the Nachi fire festival, Japan

Nachi no Dengaku is a Japanese folk performing art danced at Kumano Nachi Shrine during the annual Nachi Fire Festival. This key component of the festival takes the form of ritual dancing to flute music and drums for an abundant harvest of rice crops. It is performed by one flute player, four drummers, four players of Binzasara, a musical string instrument, and two others. Eight to ten performers dance to the music in a variety of formations. There are 22 repertoires, each performed in 45 minutes.

Cherry festival in Sefrou, Morocco

For three days in June each year, the local population of Sefrou celebrates the natural and cultural beauty of the region, symbolized by the cherry fruit and that year’s newly chosen Cherry Queen. The highlight of the festival is a parade with performing troupes, rural and urban music, majorettes and bands, and floats featuring local producers. The cherry festival provides an opportunity for the entire city to present its activities and achievements.

Cultural practices and expressions linked to the balafon of the Senufo communities of Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, Mali – Burkina Faso – Côte d’Ivoire

The balafon of the Senufo communities of Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire is a pentatonic xylophone composed of eleven to twenty-one keys of varying lengths arranged on a trapezoidal frame with gourd resonators of varying sizes arranged beneath. The player first learns to play a children’s balafon before advancing to full-size ones, under the instruction of a teacher. Played solo or as part of an ensemble during festivities, prayers, work, funerals and more, the balafon is a symbol of community identity.

Al ‘azi, elegy, processional march and poetry, Oman

Al ‘azi is a genre of sung poetry performed in the Sultanate of Oman. It takes the form of a poetry contest punctuated by sword and step movements and poetic exchanges between a singer poet and a choir. The poet, who recites improvised and memorized poems in Arabic, guides the other participants. They must pay attention to his movements and recitation, and respond with appropriate replies and movements. The poems express pride of belonging and eulogize the tribe, important people or historical moments.

Arirang, lyrical folk song in the Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea

Arirang is a popular form of Korean folk song, the outcome of many collective contributions. Essentially a simple song, it consists of the refrain ‘Arirang, arirang, arariyo’ and two simple lines that differ from region to region. While dealing with diverse universal themes, the simple musical and literary composition invites improvisation, imitation and singing in unison. A great virtue is its respect for human creativity, freedom of expression and empathy. Everyone can create new lyrics, adding to the song’s regional, historical and genre variations, and cultural diversity.

Craftsmanship of Horezu ceramics, Romania

Horezu ceramics are a unique traditional craft, handmade in Vâlcea County, Romania. The potters select and extract the earth, which is then cleaned, cut, watered, kneaded, trampled and mixed – transforming it into a clay body from which they produce a red pottery. Each object is shaped with a special finger technique, decorated with traditional motifs in vivid shades, and then fired. The potters rely on traditional tools: mixers, potter’s wheels, combs, tools for decoration and wood-burning stoves.

Fiesta of the patios in Cordova, Spain

For twelve days in May, the city of Cordova celebrates the Fiesta of the Patios. The patio houses are a characteristic communal cultural space located in the city’s historical quarter. They boast an abundant array of plants, and during the fiesta inhabitants welcome all visitors to share in their beauty and the skill involved in their creation. The patios host traditional singing, flamenco guitar and dancing, and ancestral practices of sustainable communal coexistence are shared with visitors through expressions of affection and shared food and drink.

Mesir Macunu festival, Turkey

The Mesir Macunu festival of Manisa, Turkey, commemorates the recovery of the mother of Suleiman the Magnificent from a disease cured by a paste known as mesir macunu. Every March, the paste is prepared, wrapped, blessed and scattered from the domes of the Sultan Mosque. Thousands of people come from different regions of Turkey to compete to catch the pieces as they fall. Many believe that by so doing their wishes for marriage, work and children will come true within the year.

Falconry, a living human heritage, United Arab Emirates – Austria – Belgium – Czech Republic – France – Hungary – Republic of Korea – Mongolia – Morocco – Qatar – Saudi Arabia – Spain – Syrian Arab Republic

Falconry is the traditional activity of keeping and training falcons to take quarry in its natural state. It is practised in many countries worldwide. Originally a way of obtaining food, falconry is today identified with camaraderie and sharing. Falconry is mainly found along migration flyways and corridors, and is practised by amateurs and professionals of all ages and genders. Falconers develop a strong relationship and spiritual bond with their birds, and commitment is required to breed, train, handle and fly the falcons.

Al-Taghrooda, traditional Bedouin chanted poetry in the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman, Oman

Al-Taghrooda traditional Bedouin chanted poetry is composed and recited by men travelling on camelback through desert areas of the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Short poems are improvised and repeated between two groups of riders often as antiphonal singing. The most important aspect is the social bonding during the oral exchange of verses. Al-Taghrooda is also chanted at weddings and other festivities, particularly camel races. Its themes range from romantic love, friendship, praise of tribal ties, aspirations to the settlement of disputes and contemporary themes.

Venezuela’s Dancing Devils of Corpus Christi, Venezuela

During the annual celebrations of the Feast of Corpus Christi in the small communities of the central coast of Venezuela, dancers disguised as masked devils dance backwards in penitence as an official of the Catholic Church carries forth the Blessed Sacrament. At the climax of the celebration the devils surrender to the Sacrament symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. The dancers or ‘’promeseros’’ (promise-keepers) are lifelong members of a confraternity that transmit the historical memory and ancestral traditions of the communities.

Worship of Hùng kings in Phú Thọ, Viet Nam

Pilgrims converge every year on the Hùng temple at Nghĩa Lĩnh mountain in Phú Thọ province to commemorate their ancestors and pray for good weather, abundant harvests, good luck and good health. The important Ancestral Anniversary festival is celebrated for one week during the third lunar month. Local villagers dress in splendid costumes and compete to provide the best palanquin and most highly valued objects of worship. Communities make rice-based delicacies and enact verbal and folk arts performances, bronze drum beating, Xoan singing, prayers and petitions.