ICH is always in motion, and is apt to adapt to changing conditions.
Workshop Intangible Heritage Flanders started collecting stories about new traditions and rituals that originate in the wake of the Covid19-crisis, and inventorizing ways in how ICH-practices started rethinking the way they work, while facing unprecedented challenges.
How new traditions and rituals originate
The corona crisis gave birth to new daily routines and traditions. They have the true potential to become lasting habits, not only because we need them now, but because life won’t be the same anymore after this crisis ends.
In Belgium, citizens started applauding the care workers at 20h every evening. Almost all households throughout the country put teddy bears in their front windowpane, to make long walks with children way more fun, while ‘hunting for bears’ (inspired by children’s books author Michael Rosen) streets look different since March 13th.
White sheets hang from our windows, carrying messages of support, love and hope for care workers. Post boxes carry home made messages thanking mail men and women, those working for delivery services and garbage collectors. Neighbours posted small leaflets to let the elderly next door know that help is nearby. Chalk drawings colour our streets. Not just teddy bears, but also art projects invade the window panes, thus giving birth to the ‘window museums’ or ‘street museums’ all over our cities.
Flemish carrillions awaken our cities’ silent landscapes with renditions of songs of hope and courage. ICH practices adapt, rethink and transform. ICH remains for the most part working with people, and more often than not requires proximity. The Covid19-crisis renders field trips and live encounters nearly impossible. It’s hard to approach new communities and projects from a distance or merely through digital tools.
Often, groups of volunteers involved in ICH, are of older age and thus form a risk group during this pandemic. Fundraising activities that would finance ICH projects, celebrations and events later into the year, come to a hold. Museums working with ICH remain closed until further notice. Artisan makers cannot meet their clients.
Traditionally, all over Europe, spring is the season for century old parades, processions and cavalcades to roam the streets, often dedicated to saints and legendary figures. More often than not, such a tradition brings an entire community, town or city together. Many municipalities had the difficult message to deliver, that either a large gathering would still be prohibited, of preparations couldn’t follow through.
Take for example the ‘Ros Beiaard’ tradition. Every ten years, a giant horse, straddled by four famous brothers, roams the streets of the city of Dendermonde, in the East of Flanders. The famous parade, that attracts thousands of spectators, was bound to set out on May 24th 2020, yet immediately rescheduled its festivities to May 30th 2021. Many others were forced to do the same. The pandemic forces practitioners to cancel or reschedule their ICH event or celebration, sometimes after years and years of thorough preparation. Fortunately, times of crisis and disruption sometimes give birth to fresh bursts of creativity.
Once again, ICH proves its worth: the power to adapt, mutate and rethink itself.
Slow agricultural initiatives thrive, and The Hasselt Jenever Museum and traditional breweries and distilleries gathered forces to produce medical alcohols in what proved to be an inspiring example of rethinking craftmanship.
The well known classic cycling race Ronde van Vlaanderen/Tour de Flandre, was cancelled for the first time since World War II. This time though, on April 5th, as scheduled, the race was held on spinning cycles and stationary bikes, with its many famous participants riding its final steep inclines from home. Meanwhile, a true radio play enacted the commentaries on an ‘invented’ Ronde van Vlaanderen, with male and female cyclist joining the course.
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