Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 10.COM 10.B.1

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Afghanistan has nominated Attan (No. 00986) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Attan is a communal dance performed among Pashtun communities often during festivities. The group of dancers, whose numbers can range to several dozen, forms a circle with a double-headed drum at the centre. The drummer takes up the beat while a facilitator controls the rhythms of the dancers. As a lighter percussion instrument and flute join the music, the head, arm, hand and feet movements of the dancers become more pronounced and precise, moving in synchronization. The performance culminates in an atmosphere of communion and jubilation. Increasing popularity of Attan has led to performances at weddings and official celebrations, where the variety of movements and array of instruments has enabled it to reach new artistic heights. For women, Attan is an artistic and expressive forum in which their enthusiasm for the tradition fuels a process of continuous recreation. Young girls are inspired to take part when celebrating marriages and family events, often invited by the family members of future spouses. Attan helps communities, divided into tribes, to present a part of their cultural and social identity and acts as an external expression of shared feelings of happiness. It also revives and gives fresh impetus to gatherings that form part of collective community memories.

  1. Decides that the information included in the file is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criteria are satisfied:

R.1:   The nomination does not adequately delineate the contour and scope of the communities and/or groups concerned, nor the persons with special responsibilities for the practice and transmission of Attan; additional information is needed to identify clearly the element’s social and cultural functions and meanings, beyond generalities or vague observations;

R.2:   Instead of demonstrating how possible inscription could ensure the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general and raise awareness of its significance, the nomination describes anticipated consequences that concern only Attan; moreover, references to inscription as ‘world heritage’ serving as an evidence of authenticity and to the perpetuation of a model are not compatible with the spirit of the Convention;

R.3:   Apart from outlining the longstanding viability of Attan, the description of past, ongoing and proposed safeguarding measures lacks clarity, consistency and specificity; the participation of communities and stakeholders in their planning and implementation needs to be elaborated in more concrete terms, as well as the cooperation among all parties concerned, with special attention given to measures intended to mitigate potential threats to the element that might arise as a consequence of possible inscription;

R.4:   The nomination refers to requests for inscription submitted by community representatives and members, but incorporates only four letters of consent written by individuals representing four selected communities, without explaining the selection, the identity of these individuals and the nature of their involvement in the nomination process; concurrently, active participation of practising communities, groups and individuals cannot be assessed given the imprecise definition of the element;

R.5:   Although the nomination provides evidence concerning the inclusion of Attan in the Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Information and Culture, it fails to demonstrate that such inclusion complies with Articles 11 and 12 of the Convention.

  1. Decides to refer the nomination of Attan to the State Party for additional information and invites it to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;
  2. Commends the State Party for making considerable progress in the implementation of the Convention, despite severe social and political crises, and welcomes its submission of this first nomination to the Representative List;
  3. Further invites the State Party, should it wish to resubmit the nomination, to avoid inappropriate language such as ‘authenticity’, ‘unique’, ‘marvellous’ and ‘world heritage’;
  4. Encourages the State Party, should it wish to resubmit the nomination, to consider creating a more descriptive title of the element, to take particular care with the clarity and specificity of information provided, and to provide a well-prepared video depicting the element in its diverse cultural and social contexts.