Traditional craft skills and arts of Al-Mudhif building


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Inscribed in 2023 (18.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Cultural Relations Directorate, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Iraq, 2022

Al-Mudhif is a large arched building made of reed and papyrus, both of which grow naturally in the marshes of southern Iraq. The building serves as a gathering place where members of the community can exchange, address conflicts, share experiences, tell stories and practise cultural activities and social rituals such as weddings, circumcisions, religious ceremonies and national celebrations. Al-Mudhif is also viewed as a space for transmitting traditional knowledge, values, handicraft skills, norms and customs to children and youth. It is a place to welcome visitors and guests from within and outside of Iraq. The structures are built by skilled workers and managed by tribal sheiks, but the entire community plays a part in the creation and maintenance of the space, such as by collecting the reeds and weaving the mats and rugs that are used as mattresses inside the building. The traditional customs and handicraft skills related to constructing Al-Mudhif are transmitted informally through hands-on practice and participation in cultural activities. The practice is also transmitted through stories and legends, as well as through publications and the media. Moreover, some NGOs organise workshops and activities in Al-Mudhif to raise awareness about their significance among the communities concerned.