Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.c.7

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Norway has proposed Oselvar boat – reframing a traditional learning process of building and use to a modern context (No. 01156) for selection and promotion by the Committee as a programme, project or activity best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention:

Previously western Norway’s main mode of transportation, also used for recreation, the wooden oselvar boat almost became obsolete with the introduction of modern boats in the 1940s, as well as government price restrictions forcing builders to find alternative work, and greater road transport in the 1960s. To help safeguard the traditional practice, the Os Båtbyggjarlag boat-builders guild, Os Municipality and Hordaland County, supported by the Arts Council Norway, founded the non-profit boatyard and workshop foundation Oselvarverkstaden. Operating since 1997, it recruits apprentice boat-builders, facilitates the transmission of expert know-how on building techniques (normally passed down from father to son), attracts active builders providing them with infrastructure and supports the oselvar manufacturing market. So far, more than 85 boats have been built and 40 repaired. Five of its six apprentices remain active and four builders participate. They have access to a workshop where skills sharing is encouraged, as well as materials and tools. Constructing the 5m to 10m boats made for racing, freighting or fishing is a 500 to 600 hour process, from negotiating with material suppliers to rigging and testing the final product. The builders also conduct field studies, demonstrations and participate in seminars and exhibitions, locally and internationally.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the programme responds as follows to the criteria for selection as a best safeguarding practice in paragraph 7 of the Operational Directives:

P.1:   The file describes the situation that led to the birth of Oselvarverkstaden, whose efforts have focused on safeguarding boat building traditions dating back thousands of years and adapting them to the current context, with financial support from local authorities. This involved reframing the traditional boat-building and boat-using processes through the recruitment of younger boat-builders as apprentices; bringing them together with older craftspeople; establishing a construction infrastructure; supporting market prospects for organized boat-builders, and a range of promotion activities. The aspects of comprehensive sharing, a holistic approach from forest to fjord and inputs to outputs, and capacity building of the community are emphasized.

P.2:   According to the file, coordination at various levels has been an important dimension of the safeguarding measures. This has included boat-building activities at various venues, lectures, seminars, and local craft demonstration festivals. At the regional level, two international conferences on traditional boat-making have been held with the participation of various European countries, resulting in an effective network. The oselvar boat-user organizations have run an international boating championship, with participants from three continents.

P.3:   The activities of the oselvar boat-builders reflect the principles of the Convention, given their focus on respecting and safeguarding the building techniques and usage of the oselvar boat, considered a valuable element of the local people’s heritage. Safeguarding also entails appreciating knowledge and practices linked to oral tradition and to age-old craftsmanship. Educational activities for youngsters contribute to ensuring the viability of this heritage, while recognizing it as the foundation for new creations. The programme also reflects the Convention’s focus on promoting communities’ widest participation in safeguarding their intangible cultural heritage. Cooperation between Oselvarverkstaden and the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde in Denmark provides an example of convergence with the objective of the Convention with regard to international cooperation and assistance.

P.4:   The file demonstrates the effectiveness of the project by presenting evidence related, inter alia, to an increase in community awareness, in the recruitment of young boat‑builders and in the marketing system (with growing numbers of boats built and repaired). Today, the viability of the boat-making tradition has been ensured in that the current generation of craftspeople are now serving as the new bearers of the intangible cultural heritage and are effectively transmitting their knowledge to the younger generation.

P.5:   Different oselvar communities, groups and individuals have been fully engaged in the programme at all stages of its planning and implementation, from conceptualization of the framework to actual safeguarding activities and preparation of the proposal. The community concerned has thus made consistent efforts to sustain the element and worked systematically on various safeguarding aspects. Representatives from a boat‑building masters guild, federation for oselvar regatta sailors, regional association of coastal heritage organizations, and other non-governmental organizations gave their free, prior, and informed consent to the proposal.

P.6:   The file states that the project can serve as an example of successful safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, especially with regard to its physical and organizational infrastructure based on the networking of various stakeholders; active dissemination of the element; a methodology ensuring the transfer of know-how and skills; and an emphasis on cultural renewal (combining respect for tradition and a desire to innovate). The file could, however, better describe how the project may serve as a model by clearly setting forth an interconnected set of activities backed by a concept of safeguarding that is transferable to a different cultural or geographic context. Information on financing is also needed (both with regard to initial project funding and to the pricing structure for the boats, thus ensuring sustainability of the initiative).

P.7:   The submitting State, implementing bodies, as well as communities, groups and individuals concerned are willing to cooperate in the dissemination of best practices if their project is selected. The oselvar community has already been sharing its experience at national and international levels. A set of dissemination initiatives is planned for the future including oselvar ambassadors, guided tours and lectures, exhibitions, competence sharing and craft demonstrations abroad, publications, and establishing formal networks with other organizations.

P.8:   The programme features experiences that are susceptible to an assessment of their results and which may be measured with both short-term and long-term perspectives (media coverage, publications, field studies, annual monitoring and evaluation reports, boats repaired and produced for the short term, capability to develop new tradition bearers in oselvar building and use, and new knowledge and cultural meanings for the long-term). Oselvarverkstaden also has an advisory and monitoring body and a board that annually reports to the financial contributors of the project.

P.9:   Although the project is not primarily aimed at satisfying the needs of developing countries, some of its features could be considered as potential models for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in these countries, especially where traditional craftsmanship and social practices are threatened by breakdown and disappearance. The file summarizes relevant components: strengthening the relationship between producers and users; creating a central work space and hub for traditional workmanship and its transmission; enabling cooperation with educational institutions; stimulating social practices; and establishing community resource centres (boat-user organizations). The provision of financial information on the project would have been helpful to strengthen the case made.

  1. Selects Oselvar boat – reframing a traditional learning process of building and use to a modern context as a programme, project or activity best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention.