Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.b.38

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Tunisia has nominated Pottery skills of the women of Sejnane (No. 01406) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The pottery skills of the women of Sejnane relate to the practice of using a specific technique to produce terracotta artefacts for the home, including cooking utensils, dolls and animal figurines inspired by the environment. All stages of the pottery-making process are performed by women, who also sell the pots in the village and by the side of neighbouring roads; women therefore occupy a prominent place in the community. The clay is usually extracted from wadi beds, and is then cut into blocks, crushed, purified and soaked in water, before being kneaded and shaped. Once fired, the pots are then decorated with two-tone geometrical patterns reminiscent of traditional tattoos and Berber weaving. Men are involved in the sales process, making this a family-based craft that promotes family cohesion. Faced with socioeconomic changes, the women of Sejnane have adapted their craft to modern-day needs and fluctuations in demand, showing their capacity for innovation. The knowledge and skills relating to the craft of handmade pottery in Sejnane are passed down through traditional and informal education, in communities where daughters are encouraged to learn this art of firing alongside going to school. The National Office for Crafts also delivers training courses for young women in the community who want to dedicate themselves to this activity.

  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 nomination file clearly describes the nature and specifics of the craft, including the technological processes involved. Pottery making in Sejnane is a living tradition, deeply embedded in the life of the community, and perceived as part of the local identity. It strengthens social relationships within families as well as in wider society through the principles of cooperation and solidarity. The production continues to fulfil its original purpose – to provide household equipment for personal use or as a means of earning a living. The economic aspect contributes to the viability of the element and the preservation of its original function.

R.2:   The inscription of the element could highlight the close link between sustainable development and cultural identity, the socioeconomic dimension of similar elements of intangible cultural heritage and the crucial role traditional skills play in local development. The history of the element goes back to the Neolithic period and its current form is the result of a complex process of cultural exchanges across territories and practitioners, which points to endless creativity manifested from a long historical perspective.

R.3:   The safeguarding measures are based on excellent knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the current state of the element. The proposed measures are balanced, covering key factors that include: education and the transmission of skills through traditional as well as new and more formal methods; documentation and research supplemented by the popularization of the element; practical measures including the supply of material, finding new marketing channels or adopting an excellence labelling programme aimed at maintaining high standards of production. The safeguarding measures have been conceived with respect to the needs of the element and its practitioners. It does not interfere with the existing social environment, but strives to develop certain weak or underdeveloped aspects in harmony with the identified needs.

R.4:   The file was prepared with the participation of representative associations, governmental authorities, universities and experts. The sequence of activities demonstrates systematic work. During the nomination process, various stakeholders contributed to identifying key aspects of the element and developing relevant safeguarding measures. The practitioners actively participated in collecting the necessary documentation as well as the public presentation of the technology. Written expressions of consent from local producers and other stakeholders provide a transparent testament to their endorsement of the inscription.

R.5:   Following the systematic documentation of the pottery skills of the women of Sejnane over several years, the element was included in 2016 in the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Tunisia, maintained by the National Heritage Institute. The sequence of activities leading to the inclusion is described together with the monitoring mechanisms and general inventorying principles.

  1. Inscribes Pottery skills of the women of Sejnane on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for its first inscription;
  3. Invites the State Party to take into consideration the high risk of over-commercialization of the element and encourages it to remain focused on the cultural and social aspects of the element when planning and implementing the safeguarding measures;
  4. Reminds the State Party that updating is an important part of the inventorying process and further invites it to include detailed information in its next periodic report on the implementation of the Convention at the national level concerning the periodicity of updating of its National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Tunisia, in accordance with Article 12.1 of the Convention.