Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 10.COM 10.b.20

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have nominated Aitysh/Aitys, art of improvisation (No. 00997) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Aitysh/Aitys is a contest centred on improvised oral poetry spoken or sung to the accompaniment of traditional musical instruments – the Kazakh dombra or Kyrgyz komuz. Two performers (''akyns'') compete with one other to improvise verses on topical themes in a battle of wits that alternates between humorous ripostes and penetrating philosophical reflections. During the competition, the performers sit opposite one another improvising a dialogue on topics chosen by the audience. The winner is the performer considered to have demonstrated the best musical skills, rhythm, originality, resourcefulness, wisdom and wit. The most meaningful and witty expressions often become popular sayings. The element is practised on a variety of occasions, ranging from local festivities to nationwide events, where practitioners often use the contest to raise important social issues. Although it was traditionally performed only by men, many women now participate in Aitysh/Aitys and use the contest to express women’s aspirations and viewpoints. Today, Aitysh/Aitys is a very popular cultural component of Kyrgyzstan’s and Kazakhstan’s multi-ethnic societies and constitutes a vital part of the identity of bearer communities. Older performers teach and transmit their knowledge and skills to younger generations.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

R.1:   The Aitysh/Aitys functions as a platform for social communication within community and broader society; the main bearers are performers themselves, both men and women, supported by researchers and scholars, while the transmission of knowledge and skills occurs mainly in music schools and in studios located at teachers’ homes;

R.2:   Oral poetry improvisation, depending on the topic put forward by another competitor in front of an audience, represents a specific form of public dialogue and testifies to human creativity; the nomination demonstrates the potential contribution of the inscription to awareness of the significance of oral traditions and expressions in general, as well as to the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in the region;

R.3:   In order to ensure continual viability of the element in the face of possible threats, the practising communities and two governments have elaborated activities that include strengthening formal and non-formal modes of transmission, documentation and research, continued promotion, and monitoring of the implementation, with special attention paid to the multinational character of the element and to coordination between the States Parties;

R.4:   The nomination file testifies to an active participation of all concerned parties in its conception and elaboration; a broad range of demonstrations of free, prior and informed community consent has been provided, in particular as regards the community of Tokmo-Akyns;

R.5:   The inclusion of Aitysh/Aitys in inventories of both States Parties (since 2013 in Kazakhstan and 2007 in Kyrgyzstan) has been conducted in line with Articles 11 and 12 of the Convention.

  1. Inscribes Aitysh/Aitys, art of improvisation on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Encourages the States Parties, when promoting the element on an international level, to enable the translation of lyrics into widely-spoken languages to the greatest extent possible.