- Takes note that Ethiopia has nominated Ethiopian epiphany (No. 01491) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
Ethiopian epiphany is a colourful festival celebrated all over Ethiopia to commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. The commemoration starts on the eve of the main festival on 18 January. The eve is known as Ketera, which means blocking the flow of water for the blessing of the celebrants. On the eve of Ketera, people escort their parish church tabot (replicas of the Ark of the Covenant) to Timkete-Bahir (a pool, river or artificial reservoir), transported by a priest of the parish and accompanied by a great ceremony. The people spend the night attending night-long prayers and hymn services, including the Eucharistic Liturgy. Hundreds of thousands participate in the actual festival on the following day – 19 January. The celebration starts early in the morning with pre-sunrise rituals. These are followed by the sprinkling of the blessed water on the congregation, as well as other ceremonies. At around 10 a.m., each tabot begins its procession back to its respective church, involving an even more colourful ceremony with various traditional and religious songs. The viability of the element is ensured through its continued practice, with Orthodox clergies playing a pivotal role: they sing the praises dedicated to the rituals and hymns, carry the Ark, and preach relevant texts.
- 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: Ethiopian epiphany is a religious and cultural festival during which Ethiopians gather together and celebrate, contributing to social cohesion and peace-making. The element maintains unity, mutual respect, understanding and peaceful co-existence among ethno-linguistic groups and representatives of numerous religious communities, thus providing them with a sense of identity and continuity.
R.4: The request to nominate Ethiopian epiphany for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity comes from the bearers and practitioners of the element and was undertaken by the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage. Representatives of the church, ethnic groups, religious communities and well-known practitioners gave their free, prior and informed consent to the nomination.
R.5: The element has been included in The National Register of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ethiopia since 2017. The office responsible for maintaining and updating the national inventory is the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage and the file states that it will be regularly updated every five years. The element was identified and defined with active participation of the Church, the communities concerned and the bearers and practitioners of the element.
- Further considers that based on the information provided by the State Party to the Committee at its present session, the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are satisfied:
R.2: The inscription of Ethiopian epiphany would contribute to ensuring the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general, by encouraging and motivating other States Parties to safeguard and promote intangible cultural heritage in an inclusive and participatory manner. The file also states that the inscription will enhance the appreciation of religious cultural diversity.
R.3: The proposed measures encompass a set of concrete and extensive activities aiming at ensuring the viability of the element, with priority given to awareness raising and transmission involving concerned community members as well as knowledge transfer towards the youth and the public.
- Decides to inscribe Ethiopian epiphany on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
- Encourages the State Party to pay particular attention to the possible impact of tourism and undue commercialization on the safeguarding of the element in order to prevent its decontextualization and invites it to take due account in its safeguarding measures of any risks to the element associated with tourism and increasing visitor numbers;
- Reminds the State Party that the dynamic and living nature of intangible cultural heritage should be continuously respected;
- Also reminds the State Party that top-down approaches that may unduly influence the traditional and spontaneous organization of intangible cultural heritage are not in line with the spirit of the Convention.