Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.b.5

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Bangladesh has nominated Rickshaws and rickshaw painting in Dhaka (No. 00960) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Rickshaw craftsmanship concerns the traditional practice of fashioning and decorating the rickshaw, a human-propelled mode of transport on three wheels. Every part of the rickshaw is painted and decorated, with tassels, tinsel and twirling decorations hanging from its various parts. Rickshaws are a recognized feature throughout Dhaka City, which is the main center of the element in Bangladesh. The bearers and practitioners of the element are the rickshaw mistris (the craftsmen) and the rickshaw artists, with the latter including both men and women. Since the rickshaw is a slow-moving vehicle, the paintings are easily visible to onlookers, and the vehicles are seen as a moving exhibition of paintings. The element has thus become an established part of the city’s cultural tradition, creating an emblematic feature of urban life in Dhaka City that has given birth to many social and cultural practices, rituals and events, including musical performances, exhibitions, seminars, workshops, fairs and awards. Rickshaw mistris work in rickshaw workshops, owned by a master rickshaw mistri, where related knowledge and skills are passed down from experienced artists and mistris to apprentices through hands-on training. The element not only provides the communities, groups and individuals concerned with a steady source of income and employment, but also offers them a sense of pride, unity and continuity.

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

R.1:   As a form of urban folk art, rickshaws and rickshaw painting constitute a significant part of the city’s cultural tradition, characterizing the city and its residents. The mobile exhibition of paintings adds colour and identity to the urban landscape. While highlighting the importance of hard work and cooperation, the element simultaneously embodies important cultural meanings through the creative depiction of symbols, natural sceneries, historical events and contemporary themes. As an environment-friendly means of transportation, rickshaws also contribute to sustainable development.

  1. Further decides that the information included in the file is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are satisfied:

R.2:   The file fails to clearly demonstrate how the inscription would contribute to encouraging dialogue among communities and to raising awareness of the importance of intangible cultural heritage in general at the local, national and international levels. It does not highlight the potential of rickshaw painting to promote the visibility of living heritage as an example of urban folk art practised in public spaces.

R.3:   The viability of the element is primarily ensured by the use of rickshaws as an extremely popular means of transport, and by the fact that the element provides its practitioners with regular income and a sense of pride and identity. The safeguarding measures concentrate primarily on tangible components of the element, its documentation and promotion, while less attention is paid to safeguarding its social and cultural meanings. The plan is conceived as a set of potentialities and needs rather than concrete commitments. The involvement of the tradition bearers in planning the safeguarding measures is not visible and they are expected to participate only in the implementation stage and act mainly within the limits of their current safeguarding efforts.

R.4:   The file asserts that the communities of practitioners partook in workshops, helped prepare the video, shared ideas about the need to safeguard the element and collaborated with the researchers during their fieldwork. However, it is not clear who represented them and their particular contribution is not demonstrated. Very limited documentation concerning informed community consent was delivered, raising serious doubts about the level of awareness of the nomination process among the numerous tradition bearers. The consent letters are dated 2013, and therefore do not reflect the current state of the communities’ views concerning the possible inscription.

R.5:   The element has been included in the List of Ten Elements of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Bangladesh since 2016. The publication is based on an earlier cultural survey, which was supplemented by new information with a view to nominating the element for the Representative List. The element was identified, defined and documented by intangible cultural heritage experts using ethnographic field research. The file does not demonstrate that the identification was done in conformity with Articles 11 and 12 of the Convention, particularly in terms of community participation. The regular updating mechanism, including its mode, periodicity and community participation, is not explained.

  1. Decides to refer the nomination of Rickshaws and rickshaw painting in Dhaka to the submitting State Party and invites it to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;
  2. Reminds the State Party that the communities, groups and individuals concerned must be the key players in any effort to identify, promote and safeguard intangible cultural heritage, and must be involved in every stage thereof.