- Takes note that Belgium has nominated Namur stilt jousting (no. 01590) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
Namur stilt jousting is a tradition dating back to the early fifteenth century. During a stilt joust, participants attempt to knock all the members of the opposing team to the ground. Stilt jousters are grouped into two teams: the Mélans, with yellow and black stilts, representing the old town, and the Avresses, with red and white stilts, representing the new town and neighbouring villages. However, today applicants join a team based on affinity rather than on location. Each stilt joust starts with a procession made up of the two teams, preceded by their flags, drums and fife-player. The drums herald the procession, set the rhythm of the march and energize the joust. Stilt jousts usually take place during festivals in the streets and squares of Namur. Entry is free, and spectators gather around the jousting zone and cheer on their favourite team and jousters. Jousters range from 7 to 70 years old, and although historically all-male, in 2018 the stilt jousting association (called Les Échasseurs Namurois) opened up training to women and girls. Stilt jousting is a strong marker of Namur’s identity and is seen as a factor of cohesion and integration for the inhabitants of the city.
- 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 mainly practiced during festivals or to honour visitors. It has become more inclusive over time and today the element is also practised by women and girls, as well as youth, with a third of practising stilt jousters said to be under 16 years old. Knowledge and skills associated with the element are transmitted through weekly trainings, family tradition, awareness-raising in schools by teachers and joust ambassadors. Mutual respect is integral to the practice of the element and is expressed through sportsmanship.
R.2: The nomination file demonstrates that inscription of the element would heighten the awareness of Namur inhabitants’ intangible cultural heritage and urban intangible cultural heritage at the local and national levels. At the international level, inscription would promote other traditional practices featuring stilts and serve as a catalyst for dialogue among communities of traditional stilt practices. Mutual respect is upheld through the attention given to increasing the participation of girls and women.
R.3: The file provides a comprehensive list of past and current safeguarding measures. The proposed safeguarding measures emphasize the transmission of the practice and its meanings to younger generations. Information is also provided about protecting against excesses and unintended consequences of inscription, particularly to mitigate against the effects of over-commercialization and tourism. Furthermore, the file demonstrates strong community participation in the development and implementation of the proposed safeguarding measures.
R.4: The file demonstrates an inclusive process involving community stakeholders in the development of the nomination file. There is notable representation from Les Échasseurs Namurois association as well as from persons in varying roles regarding the element, including youth, in the drafting of the nomination file. Free, prior and informed consent is also well-established.
R.5: The element was listed in the Inventory of Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation in 2004. The inventory file was updated in 2016, 2018 and 2019. The inventorying was established with the participation of the community and was the result of cooperation between the non-governmental organizations Les Échasseurs Namurois and Namur Initiatives Citoyennes. The inventory is updated every five years.
- Decides to inscribe Namur stilt jousting on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
- Commends the State Party for nominating an element that shows the communities’ actions for inclusivity in response to the wishes of women and girls to proactively participate in the practice and safeguarding of the element.