- Takes note that the United Arab Emirates has nominated Al Azi, art of performing praise, pride and fortitude poetry (No. 01268) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:
Al Azi is a traditional poetry recital performed by a group of individuals without rhythmical or musical instruments. It consists of a full-rhymed poem based on traditional poetry and the lines of poetry are sometimes interposed with sayings and proverbs. Bearers and practitioners include the poet, performer, chorus and audience. The practice strengthens bonds and is connected with knowledge and practices related to nature. Al Azi was performed regularly by communities until the mid-1900s, when performances began to dwindle gradually. Due to development, thousands of inhabitants moved from the desert to urban areas, and the economic boom from 1970 to 1990 led to citizens abandoning employment in traditional sectors and the culture and arts associated with such activities. Another factor has been the enactment of State laws instead of traditional tribal customs. The number of poets has decreased greatly over the past twenty years. Despite these challenges, Al Azi has withstood extinction thanks to the efforts of a number of creative people and traditional art troupes. The practice enjoyed a revival several years ago when it was introduced into national events, with a highly successful theatrical production, and media coverage has helped revive Al Azi, encouraging more poets to compose Al Azi poems.
- Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:
U.1: This element is a Bedouin traditional art practised by many groups that served in the past as the reception ceremony for people returning from a mission. The tradition has evolved, with the recitals expanding to cover wider topics, and with the performances taking place on various occasions including ceremonies, festive events and solemn occasions. Three types of poems and four categories of bearers are clearly identified.
U.2: The frequency of the performances has been gradually declining since the 1960s due to the migration of bearers from desert areas to cities, the limitation of public spaces in which to practise the element, the introduction of State laws taking precedence over tribal customary laws, the loss of human resources and their know-how, and the consequent declining spontaneity of performances. However, communities also showed their commitment to maintaining the tradition with the broad support of the media and public authorities.
U.3: Efforts to safeguard the element include the identification of bearers, research, documentation and publishing activities, public performances such as festivals and contests, educational activities at various informal and formal levels and financial support from the authorities. The safeguarding plan includes comprehensive measures and an adequate budget.
U.4: Community and civil society representatives, including performers of Al Azi, actively participated in the preparation of the nomination, along with researchers and administration officials. The promotion of this process by the media was also ensured.
U.5: The element has been included in the Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of the city of Abu Dhabi since 2016, with the participation of local communities, non-governmental organizations and both female and male bearers. It is managed by the Department of Tourism and Culture Authority and updated every five years.
- Inscribes Al Azi, art of performing praise, pride and fortitude poetry on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
- Recommends that the State Party ensure the full participation of the communities throughout all stages of the implementation of the safeguarding activities;
- Invites the State Party to take particular heed so as to avoid the possible negative consequences of the inscription of the element, such as its over-commercialization and folklorization;
- Takes note that Al Azi is shared by other communities in the region and that ‘Al ‘azi, elegy, processional march and poetry’ was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2012, and recalls that inscription on any List does not imply exclusivity.