Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 14.COM 10.b.21

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has nominated Fone Lam Vong Lao (lamvonglao) (lamvong) (No. 01488) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Originally, Fone Lam Vong Lao (lamvonglao) (lamvong) arose from a simple dance that villagers growing paddy rice would perform around a central bale of rice to celebrate harvest time: Lam (Fone) means dance, and vong means to circle. Over time, this simple dance has evolved into the fine stylistic dance now recognized as the classic lamvonglao. Nowadays, the dance is pivotal to the opening of wedding ceremonies and is included in all national events. There are certain rules observed before starting the dance: normally, the man must express respect to invite the woman to dance with him. On special government occasions, though, the woman may invite the man to dance with her. The men form an inner circle around an outer circle formed by the women, and the dance consists of eight movements per cycle. The cycles are repeated according to the length of the music. Lamvonglao is very popular throughout Lao due to its rhythm and abundant gestures. The dance is considered to represent the nation’s soul, symbolizing ancient and popular culture. Participants become actors rather than spectators by participating joyfully in the songs and dances. Many associations within the Lao community practise, teach and support lamvonglao, such as performing art groups, women’s associations, youth movements, children’s cultural centres, and others.

  1. Considers 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:   Lamvonglao is considered to symbolize the national identity of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and strengthens continuity in Lao society. Associated with joy, it promotes social cohesion and brings together families and village communities. It is also a means of communicating and transmitting diverse social, political and cultural messages associated with a healthy life, security and sustainable development.

R.3:   The proposed safeguarding measures include the transmission of related knowledge and skills to young people through training activities such as dance lessons, performances and displays, as well as initiatives geared at researching, documenting and promoting the element. The Lao government will support the implementation of the safeguarding measures through national and local policies along with involvement of the communities concerned. Further measures include: the formal and non-formal education of young people; the creation of a formal association of practitioners; financial and logistical support for researchers; publications; festivals; and the monitoring and evaluation of the activities.

  1. Further considers 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 does not provide enough information on whether the inscription of the element would contribute to ensuring the visibility and awareness of intangible cultural heritage in general, or how it would encourage dialogue among communities, groups and individuals. The nomination focuses mainly on how the inscription would help enhance the visibility of the element itself.

R.4:   The description of the community participation in the nomination process is general and vague and lacks information on the methodologies adopted, the actors concerned and the activities undertaken. Moreover, there is not enough evidence of this participation. Although the nominated element is national in scope, the file only includes four letters of consent: from two associations and two governmental institutions.

R.5:   The information provided in relation to the inventory of intangible cultural heritage of Lao People’s Democratic Republic is not clear. Although the nomination file makes reference to the official recognition of the element as part of the country’s intangible cultural heritage, it does not provide the name of the inventory, the updating mechanism or the name of the institution in charge of it. It also describes a top-down process to carry out the inventory.

  1. Decides to refer the nomination of Fone Lam Vong Lao (lamvonglao) (lamvong) to the submitting State Party and invites it to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;
  2. Encourages the State Party to ensure the primary role of the communities, groups and individuals concerned throughout all stages of the nomination process and to avoid top-down approaches that may unduly influence the traditional and spontaneous organization of intangible cultural heritage.