12.COM 11.B.26

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Portugal has nominated Craftmanship of Estremoz clay figures (No. 01279) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Craftsmanship of Estremoz Clay Figures involves a production process lasting several days: the elements of the figures are assembled before being fired in an electric oven and then painted by the artisan and covered with a colourless varnish. The clay figures are dressed in the regional attires of Alentejo or the clothing of religious Christian iconography, and follow specific themes. The production of clay figures in Estremoz dates back to the seventeenth century, and the very characteristic aesthetic features of the figures make them immediately identifiable. The craft is strongly attached to the Alentejo region, since the vast majority of the figures depict natural elements, local trades and events, popular traditions and devotions. The viability and recognition of the craft are ensured through non-formal education workshops and pedagogical initiatives by the artisans, as well as by the Centre for the Appreciation and Safeguarding of the Estremoz Clay Figure. Fairs are organized at the local, national and international levels. Knowledge and skills are transmitted both in family workshops and professional contexts, and artisans teach the basics of their craft through non-formal training initiatives. Artisans are actively involved in awareness-raising activities organized in schools, museums, fairs and other events.

  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:   The craftsmanship of Estremoz clay figures in Portugal was initially linked to the creation of nativity scenes, but the figures also depict natural elements, local trades and events, popular traditions and everyday life. The bearers and practitioners of the element include both men and women, mostly in their fifties and sixties. When passing on knowledge and skills related to the element, practitioners have adapted their attitudes and transmission practices to meet current social and cultural demands. Although the number of producers of the Estremoz clay figures has always been small, the specific procedures, production methods and usages of the Estremoz clay figures in daily life have been recognized by the related communities, especially in connection with the representation of the natural world, religious beliefs and the historical memory of the society in question and its social changes.

R.2:   As the element depicts some common topics shared with other cultures worldwide, as well as several specific features of the Estremoz clay figures, such as the clothing of the clay figures, activities performed and local products, the inscription of the element would promote respect for cultural diversity and human creativity in general while encouraging mutual understanding among communities that share some of the features depicted by the clay figures. Given that the skills associated with the clay figures are practised in many countries worldwide, the inscription of the element would foster greater appreciation of the craft and could encourage dialogue among people interested in exchanging views about their lives and traditions.

R.3:   The viability of the element is ensured through the artisan community’s participation in safeguarding actions. Such measures include non-formal education workshops, itinerant exhibitions, local, regional, national and international fairs and pedagogical initiatives organized in partnership with Estremoz Municipal Museum. These initiatives are aimed at awakening the talents of young people interested in the practice and raising their awareness of the importance of Estremoz Figures for the local identity, both in technical and aesthetic terms. The activities of the Center for the Appreciation and Safeguard of the Estremoz Clay Figure also contribute to the safeguarding efforts, for example by supporting the development of extra-curricular activities in schools aimed at encouraging young people to take an interest in the element. In spite of market pressures from collectors requesting extravagant pieces, artisans are aware that the identity of Estremoz clay figures should be maintained although innovations may be appropriate. Measures are also taken to protect artisans and their practice from any adverse effects of industrial production. Innovative approaches are described, such as those of the Interpretative Center of Estremoz’ Clay Figures and the Estremoz Clay Figure Artisans Incubator, which offer free workspace for artisans.

R.4:   From 2012 to 2016, Estremoz City Hall coordinated the process of preparing the nomination for the inscription of the craftsmanship of Estremoz clay figures. This was carried out with the active participation of the local artisans and regional authorities, who gave their free, prior and informed consent, demonstrating a keen interest in the inscription. The roles and specific responsibilities of the participants in the nomination process are all clearly demonstrated in the file. There are no customary restrictions governing access to the craftsmanship of Estremoz clay figures.

R.5:   In 2015, the element was included in the National Inventory for Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is maintained by the General-Directorate for Cultural Heritage. The process of inventorying the element was carried out by the Municipal Museum of Estremoz, with the artisans’ participation through interviews and constant interaction. The inventory will be updated every ten years: the Municipality of Estremoz, through its Municipal Museum, shall be responsible for this updating process. The inventory can be accessed through the website link provided. The website is participatory and provides instructions for entries for the National Inventory for Intangible Cultural Heritage and for developing safeguarding actions.

  1. Inscribes Craftmanship of Estremoz clay figures on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Top