12.COM 11.B.19

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Kyrgyzstan has nominated Kok boru, traditional horse game (No. 01294) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Kok boru, a traditional horse game, is a synthesis of traditional practices, performances and the game itself. It is a traditional game played by two teams on horseback, where players try to manoeuvre with a goat’s carcass (replaced with a mould in modern-day games), or ‘ulak’, and score by putting it into the opponents’ goal. The community of bearers includes players united in higher league, semi-professional and amateur teams, as well as the general public. The most experienced players serve as referees, while another category consists of the ‘Kalystar’ (elders), who ensure the fairness of the game. The element is an expression of the cultural and historic tradition and spiritual identity of its practitioners and serves to unite communities regardless of social status, fostering a culture of teamwork, responsibility and respect. Knowledge related to the element is primarily transmitted naturally by means of demonstration, as well as during festive and social events, and the community concerned is actively involved in ensuring its viability through the transmission of knowledge and skills, research and the organization of training. The National Kok-Boru Federation, established in 1998, plays a key role in promoting and safeguarding the element through the development and organization of activities.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Kok boru is a traditional nomadic game involving humans and horses and reflecting their close relationship. It is primarily practised by young men and constitutes an important dimension of the cultural heritage of the communities concerned in Kyrgyzstan. The bearer communities are characterized by an elaborate system of specific roles, comprising: players, trainers, referees, the elders, spectators and horse connoisseurs. Transmission mechanisms include the transfer of know-how relating to horse-riding skills, the rules of the game, learning-by-doing and imitation. A codification of the rules was established recently to ensure the safety of the participants and animals while competing. The element fosters and transmits a strong code of ethics, including notions of teamwork, patience and respect among the players and for the horses.

R.2:   The inscription of the element would raise the visibility of a traditional form of social and spiritual entertainment in the contemporary world and reinforce the feelings of pride and self-respect of practitioners of traditional sports by highlighting the relevance of such practices in modern societies. The components of the element are reflected in literature, films and artworks, including folk art, thus serving as a means of intercultural dialogue and exchange. They also exemplify cultural specificities expressed through spiritual and traditional knowledge, which can be found, for instance, in the crafting of the horse equipment and the outfits of the bearers, thereby demonstrating the diversity of living heritage.

R.3:   Past and current measures to safeguard the element include: the transmission of traditional knowledge and skills by individual bearers of Kok boru; participation in research and documentation activities resulting in publications such as practical guides developed by practitioners, among others. The Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism has coordinated various efforts and a national plan for the practice of Kok boru is in place. The State Party concerned has developed a legal framework on intangible cultural heritage, including through the drafting of a Law on National Kinds of Sports (2003) and the establishment of a National Programme on Intangible Cultural Heritage Preservation (2012). It has also improved the infrastructure in the cultural sphere, including through the construction of a hippodrome for the horse games or training camps. Funding opportunities are available from the private sector and horse-breeding businesses. Proposed measures to popularize the element include events such as the ‘II World Nomad Games’ and an international conference on ‘The Role of Traditional Knowledge and Games of the Nomad Culture in Sustainable Development’.

R.4:   The safeguarding of the tradition and subsequent nomination process have received an unprecedented level of support from the bearers and the public in general. Through a series of consultative meetings, the communities, bearers and practitioners of Kok boru participated actively in all stages of the preparation of the nomination file and gave their consent to the nomination of the element, as demonstrated by the consent letters attached. Representatives of national and regional Kok boru federations were especially eager to revise and restart the nomination process after the referral in 2015, and a national work group was set up. Debates took place all over the country and the general public was able to provide its inputs through the dedicated website. Communities made voluntary efforts to support the process by covering the costs of meetings, with social media networks playing an instrumental role in that regard.

R.5:   Kok Boru was included in the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory in 2015, under the responsibility of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic. The inventory is updated once every three years, with the last update having occurred in 2014. The process is carried out with the participation of representatives of regional federations and communities in identifying, documenting and proposing safeguarding measures.

  1. Inscribes Kok boru, traditional horse game on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the State Party to pay specific attention to the linguistic quality of the file and to avoid innapprorpiate terms that contradict the spirit of the Convention, such as the notion of ‘world culture’;
  3. Commends the State Party for the submission of an improved file following the referral of the nomination in 2015.

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