Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 4.COM 14.07

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Latvia has nominated the Suiti cultural space for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, described as follows:

The Suiti are a small Catholic community in the Protestant (Lutheran) western part of Latvia. The Suiti cultural space is characterized by a number of distinct features, including vocal drone singing performed by Suiti women, wedding traditions, colourful traditional costumes, the Suiti language, local cuisine, religious traditions, celebrations of the annual cycle, and a remarkable number of folk songs, dances and melodies recorded in this community. Older forms of extended family structures are still common here, and such families, where the transfer of skills from generation to generation takes place, are important bastions of Suiti cultural heritage. The synthesis of pre-Christian traditions and religious rituals has created a unique blend of intangible cultural heritage in the Suiti community. The pillar of Suiti identity – the Catholic Church – successfully recovered following the Soviet period and as a result, the Suiti cultural space has experienced a gradual renaissance. However, today only a few, mostly old people, have a good knowledge of Suiti cultural heritage, and thus there is an urgent need to disseminate this knowledge and to involve more people in its preservation by recovering elements preserved only in written documents, film archives and museum depositaries.

  1. Decides that, from the information provided in Nomination File 00314, the Suiti cultural space satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List, as follows:

U.1:   The Suiti cultural space has been preserved and constantly recreated by generations of Catholics in predominantly Protestant surroundings, for whom maintaining their unique intangible heritage and confessional distinctiveness provides the two-thousand-strong Suiti community with a profound sense of valued identity;

U.2:   Although Suiti rituals and practices remain important in the life of the community, their viability is at risk due to the limited economic opportunities for generating income and sustaining the cohesion of the community, shrinking opportunities and resources for their practice and transmission, as well as their lack of prestige among the youth;

U.3:   Recent safeguarding measures include the establishment of the Suiti Ethnic Cultural Centre and creation of the community’s website, while the safeguarding plan to ensure the viability of the element, developed jointly by community members and the relevant authorities, involves adjusting school curricula, supporting informal education and extra-curricular activities, revitalizing certain rituals, training to acquire traditional skills, promoting the Suiti language and inventorying manifestations of Suiti intangible heritage;

U.4:   Adequate documentation is provided to demonstrate that the three local community councils, as well as the active cultural organizations (Suitu Novads and the Suiti Ethnic Cultural Centre), gave their consent and wholehearted support to the nomination;

U.5:   The Suiti Cultural Space has been included by the State Party in 2008 in a ‘List of Most Important Values of Latvian Culture’ as one of thirteen distinctive expressions of intangible cultural heritage.

  1. Inscribes the Suiti cultural space on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Takes further note that the Suiti and their cultural space are representative of many other European communities and their respective intangible heritage, and that inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List can thus focus international attention on the urgent need to safeguard heritage that is similarly endangered;
  3. Welcomes the safeguarding measures proposed as respecting the wishes of the Suiti community to control their own future and decide on their destiny from within, thus strengthening Suiti social and cultural identity;
  4. While acknowledging the importance of restoring Alsunga Castle and other culturally important buildings and renovating roads leading to the Suiti region, encourages the State Party to focus safeguarding resources especially on the human element;
  5. Commends the State Party and community concerned for identifying a number of strategic safeguarding interventions and anticipates that such targeted efforts will also contribute to a more general strengthening of Suiti cultural heritage and identity.