Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.A.3

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Portugal has nominated Bisalhães black pottery manufacturing process (No. 01199) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Bisalhães in Portugal is known as ‘the land of pot and pan producers’ or more specifically, where black pottery is made. Designed for decorative and cooking purposes, the traditional practice that features on the village’s coat of arms has been an important part of the community’s identity, with old methods still used today to create pieces resembling those of the past. Several steps are involved in making black pottery. First, the clay is crushed with a wooden hammer in a stone tank before it is sifted, water added to it, then kneaded, formed, defined using various laths, smoothened by pebbles, decorated using a stick and finally fired in a kiln. The division of work has evolved over time with the labour-intensive clay preparation now assigned to men, while women still mainly decorate the pots. Furthermore, clay used in the process is now sourced from local tile factories instead of being extracted from pits. Transmitted almost exclusively through kinship ties, the future of the practice appears in jeopardy due to a diminishing number of bearers, waning interest from younger generations to continue the tradition and popular demand for industrially-made alternatives.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

U.1:   The file describes Bisalhães black pottery manufacturing as a long-standing tradition that is part of the community identity and memory, and constituting an important element of the local intangible cultural heritage, which is transmitted within families from generation to generation. Besides its utilitarian aspect, Bisalhães black pottery manufacturing has symbolic, social and aesthetic dimensions linked to the community concerned;

U.2:   The file adequately describes the severity and immediacy of threats that undermine the viability of the element, including competition from industrial products and the waning interest of young people in the community concerned. The strength of traditional modes of transmission and the demographics of its practitioners are also described, with only seven potters and their families said to be still active;

U.3:   Several safeguarding initiatives have been implemented, mostly by the municipality, and a further set of actions is proposed. These include, among others, creating conditions to improve the economic sustainability and profitability of the craft, improving the working conditions for existing potters, and training and education. These measures have been discussed with the community, have their agreement and will be implemented with their involvement;

U.4:   The active involvement of communities, groups and individuals concerned in preparing and elaborating the nomination is well described. There is a broad and personalized range of attestations of community consent reflecting evidence of free, prior and informed consent. The file indicates that there are no customary practices governing access to the element;

U.5:   The element was inscribed in 2015 on the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, coordinated by the General Directorate for Cultural Heritage. All requirements (including community participation in the inventorying process and the regular updating of the inventory) and documentary evidence have been provided in sufficient detail.

  1. Inscribes Bisalhães black pottery manufacturing process on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Invites the submitting State to ensure a balance between the role of the municipal council and that of the communities in the safeguarding process.