- Takes note that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has nominated Traditional craft of Naga motif weaving in Lao communities (no. 01593) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
The naga is a mythical, serpent-like creature that lives in rivers. Lao people believe that naga are ancestors that watch over them. To show their respect, Lao people add naga motifs to many different objects, the most common of which is textiles through weaving. Naga weaving entails weaving the motif by hand with a traditional wooden loom. It can take several days to complete a single motif. The techniques are based on traditional knowledge and skills dating back centuries and passed down from mother to daughter. There are many different styles of naga patterns, and they can be woven in silk, organza and cotton. Traditionally, the body of the naga is woven in white or in one solid colour, with the crest predominating in strong colours to symbolize the naga’s supernatural powers. Dyers therefore prepare symbolic colours using local and natural materials. For instance, red dyes are created from stick lac, green from indigo plants, yellow from wood, and gold from almond leaves. The naga motif is used all over the country, on blankets for newborns, on woven cloths for everyday clothing, such as women’s skirts, and on sashes worn during formal occasions and rituals.
- 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: The element is widely practiced in Lao People’s Democratic Republic and is associated with knowledge of nature, as it involves the use of materials such as silk for weaving and plants to create fabric dyes. Knowledge and skills of the weaving techniques are passed down within households, with parents passing on the practice to their children. The knowledge is also transmitted through education and learning programmes and in vocational training centres. The element holds important social, religious and cultural meanings to the Lao communities. It is deeply linked to religious beliefs and festival celebrations in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
R.3: Many individuals and non-profit organizations have been active in ensuring the viability of the element through marketing, craft exhibitions, research and documentation of various aspects of the element, as well as through advocacy to strengthen safeguarding measures. The government has also provided low-interest loans to weavers to support production. The nomination file identifies three safeguarding measures: (a) collection, identification, research, documentation and display; (b) promotion and enhancement; and (c) revitalization. The State Party will support the proposed safeguarding measures through its institutes, funding, stakeholder coordination and promotion. Bearers and various stakeholders participated in the process of developing the proposed safeguarding measures.
R.4: The preparation of the nomination is the result of a joint effort between the State Party and various concerned stakeholders, including the practitioners, local governments, civil society groups, non-governmental organizations, entrepreneurs, experts, researchers and academics. The nomination was endorsed following inter-ministerial meetings and roundtable discussions. While various letters of consent were submitted as evidence of the free, prior and informed consent of the communities, these letters were not dated.
- 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: It is not sufficiently explained how inscription would help ensure the visibility of the intangible cultural heritage in general. The nomination file explains instead, how the inscription of the element might enhance the visibility of the element itself locally and nationally and further its popularity internationally. The inscription of the element would also encourage dialogue among stakeholders, civil society and Lao people. The file mentions that the nomination would help increase sales, make imitations more difficult and deter exploitation by producers, giving the impression that the nomination is focused largely on the commercialization of the element.
R.5: The element is explained as being part of a book which is an inventory of Lao-Tai textile, which was made official (legal) by the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism in 2014 and 2020. Official documents showing the listing are provided in the file. Every year, the document is updated and information is collected and submitted to the National Committee for Heritage by individuals, researchers, academics, organizations and associations. The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism plans to list and promote this information online. However, the documents provided appear to be lists of motif designs and do not include information about the element, the communities involved or other essential information that should be included in an inventory. It is consequently difficult to determine if the documents constitute an inventory.
- Decides to refer the nomination of Traditional craft of Naga motif weaving in Lao communities to the submitting State Party and invites it to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;
- Further invites the State Party, when submitting nomination files in the future, to ensure that safeguarding measures adequately address the potential negative impact of the over-commercialization of the element, keeping in mind that all safeguarding measures should be aimed at enhancing the viability of the element.