- Takes note that Egypt has nominated Handmade weaving in Upper Egypt (Sa’eed) (no. 01605) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:
The craft tradition ‘Handmade weaving in Upper Egypt (Sa’eed)’ is a complex process that requires time, effort, patience and practice. Many steps and techniques are involved in the loom preparation, threading and weaving to achieve the final product; it is a work of precision and intricate workmanship. For centuries, men and women have used their inherited knowledge and artistic talent to create embroidered textiles both as a family legacy and as a profession. The basic principles have remained the same as those used in the past, whether for linen, cotton, wool or silk. However, factories that used to weave with expensive silk yarn have gradually shifted to cotton as it is more financially rewarding, and the small narrow looms have been replaced with wider ones. Handloom weaving is considered as a source of identity and pride for the communities concerned and the persistence of handloom terminology attests to its deep-rooted significance for them. The practice currently faces many threats, however. Weaving is no longer lucrative, weaving at home requires unused space to accommodate the loom, and the working materials are expensive. The craft is therefore neglected and not transmitted as it was in the past. It is believed that training a new generation of young people in this trade would provide a solution to the escalating problem of unemployment in the communities concerned.
- Considers 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: Handmade weaving in Upper Egypt (Sa’eed) is a skill linked to a number of traditional crafts, the practice of which has supported the development of oral expressions related to the everyday life of the communities of bearers. The community recognizes the practice as part of its traditional heritage. For its practitioners, handloom weaving is a source of identity and pride. Handmade weaving is transmitted mainly by simulation, with apprentice weavers acquiring knowledge orally while mimicking the techniques of their elders. However, as a family legacy and profession, the craft is being transmitted within families less and less, mainly due to economic reasons, which affect the percentage of the know-how passed on and the craftsmanship within the community.
U.2: Handmade weaving is known throughout Egypt as a traditional craft, but is highly concentrated among the communities of Upper Egypt. Nowadays, as a result of several economic and technical circumstances, the viability of the craft has been severely affected. The threats identified to the continued transmission and enactment of the element are: a decreased interest in the craft and thus endangered transmission of the associated knowledge and skills in a wider context of technological advances; a lack of proportionate income for the workmanship involved; the import of cheaper textiles; a lack of adequate cultivation and plantation as well as the absence of an appropriate sales market for the textile products made through handmade weaving and embroidery. Moreover, there is insufficient public awareness, documentation and methodological learning, and the chain around production and consumption needs to be developed.
U.4: Community members have been the primary supporters of and collaborators in the efforts to safeguard the element and prevent its disappearance. Community members participated in all stages of the activities and approved of all the strategies. Women were particularly involved in the preparation of the nomination. The community leaders are the experienced bearers of the tradition and their associated knowledge; such individuals still practise the craft and disseminate related knowledge among the workers. Members of the community approached the Egyptian Society for Folk Traditions (ESFT) to seek assistance in dealing with the urgent need to safeguard the element. Community consent documents are attached, attesting to the community’s participation.
- Decides that based on the information provided by the State Party to the Committee at its present session, the following criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding are satisfied:
U.3: The safeguarding plan proposed includes a wide range of objectives, including awareness-raising, training, documentation and others. As for the related activities, the nomination proposes conducting three areas of activity: a survey to determine the scope of the element and identify the activities related to its viability; a capacity-building workshop for community leaders/trainers and public officials related to the development of safeguarding plans; and a training programme for young trainees.
U.5: The element was first formally registered by the Egyptian Archive of Folk Life and Folk Traditions and the ESFT (registered in the State Party from 2000 and accredited by UNESCO in 2012) in 2013. This was last updated in 2019, in line with previous elements inscribed by Egypt on the Intangible Heritage lists. The inventory was prepared and updated with the participation of the community.
- Decides to inscribe Handmade weaving in Upper Egypt (Sa’eed) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
Requests the State Party to submit, for the next four years after inscription, biennial reports on the results of the measures taken to ensure the safeguarding of the element;
Reminds the State Party to avoid a product-oriented approach focused on marketing and commercialization, and to instead concentrate on the safeguarding of the cultural meanings and social functions of Handmade weaving in Upper Egypt (Sa’eed);
Invites the State Party to pay particular attention to the reinforcement and strengthening of the capacities of the weavers responsible for providing the training courses;
Recalls the importance of using vocabulary that is appropriate to the spirit of the Convention and avoiding expressions such as ‘authenticity’;
Further takes note that Egypt has requested International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund in the amount of US$262,400 for the implementation of the safeguarding plan for Handmade weaving in Upper Egypt (Sa’eed) (no. 01638):
To be implemented by the Egyptian Society for Folk Traditions (ESFT), this two-year project is aimed at safeguarding handmade weaving in Upper Egypt (Sa’eed). Considered as a key component of Egyptian cultural and artistic heritage, this ancient craft currently faces many threats. To address this situation, local practitioners approached the ESFT to initiate this project to help address the deteriorating state of the element. Women were particularly invested in the request. During the project, a survey will be conducted to determine the scope of the element and identify activities related to its viability, the outcomes of which are expected to help identify challenges to the viability of the element and the feasibility of safeguarding efforts. A capacity-building workshop will be conducted for community leaders, trainers and public officials concerning the development of safeguarding plans. By the end of the sessions, participants are expected to be able to identify key dimensions of the element, including community versus official perceptions, associated challenges, and supply and demand factors affecting its viability. A training programme will also be held for young trainees. Among other outcomes, the project is expected to raise awareness about the element and its importance, create a new wave of handmade weaving professionals, document the techniques and patterns of the traditional weaving process, diversify its location and encourage innovation and creativity.
- Also considers that, from the information provided in the file, the request responds as follows to the criteria for granting International Assistance given in paragraphs 10 and 12 of the Operational Directives:
Criterion A.1: The community members participated in all stages of the activities and approved all the strategies. They are included in several of the activities proposed for community leaders, namely in the training on safeguarding plans and as participants both in the survey and in the training at the national level. However, the criteria for identifying the potential beneficiaries of the training are not explicit. The file states that the training will be aimed at young women from three regions of Upper Egypt; however, the information related to the description of this population is insufficient, as is the information relating to the women who will provide the training courses, their place of origin, and their relationship with the communities.
Criterion A.2: The budget and schedule are presented according to the objectives, proposed activities and budget distribution, with the largest amount of resources focusing primarily on developing training in the hand loom techniques, materials, renting the space for the workshop and the participants' expenses. The budget breakdown only partially reflects the objectives, proposed activities and expenses and the sustainability of the supply of material appears to be problematic and not guaranteed. The budget breakdown is too general, with a lack of specificity in terms of the costs for individual items. The breakdown does not identify the activities in detail, including their timing, location and other related safeguarding activities.
Criterion A.3: The proposed safeguarding activities fall into three primary areas: 1) conducting a survey to determine the scope of the element and identify the activities related to its viability; 2) conducting a capacity-building workshop for community leaders/trainers and public officials related to the development of safeguarding plans; and 3) conducting a training programme for young trainees. These parts are logically connected and would contribute to safeguarding the element. However, in the description of the objectives and activities, many different facts and aims are mixed and somewhat unclear. In several places, the request mixes what needs to be done, the current situation and the ideal situation to be achieved. The framework of the safeguarding plan therefore needs to be carefully reviewed in order to present the relationship between the objectives and the actions enabling them to be achieved as concisely as possible.
Criterion A.4: The main expected result of the project is to train young women in the art of weaving. The request further states that this will lead to an increased number of trainees, thus meeting the market demand. The information provided is not sufficient to clearly identify whether the ultimate purpose of the programme is the safeguarding of weaving know-how in the interest of ensuring the continuity of intangible cultural heritage, or if the programme focuses on offering work training for young women from certain communities in Upper Egypt. While both goals are equally important for the communities, in the context of the 2003 Convention the safeguarding of skills and practices would be expected to be the main goal of the programme. The request further states that exhibiting the element at the national and international levels will raise public awareness of it and increase demand for the craft. By increasing the viability and visibility of the element, new channels will be opened. However, there is insufficient information to ascertain how this part of the safeguarding plan will influence the future of the element.
Criterion A.5: In each section of the budget, the State Party clearly distinguishes the amount requested from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund from the amount to be contributed by the State Party itself or other sources. According to the budget, the State Party will share the cost of the activities. It will be responsible for four per cent of the entire budget.
Criterion A.6: The request states that this programme will strengthen the effectiveness of civil societies in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. It further states that weavers who have not benefited from proper training from experienced bearers will not be ignored. Rather, they will receive special attention to introduce them to the basis of the craft and its techniques, in addition to the knowledge about intangible cultural heritage that they will acquire from the workshop. The request does not convincingly demonstrate how these experienced weavers will continue to be engaged in the practice of the element in an active manner.
Criterion A.7: Egypt is currently benefitting from International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund, for the project entitled ‘Inventory of intangible culture of craftsmanship in the core of Historic Cairo’ (file no. 01633, 2020-2022, US$86,950).
Paragraph 10(a): The request does not specify the cooperation partners at the bilateral, regional or international levels. The non-governmental organization – the Egyptian Society for Folk Traditions (ESFT) – was established in 2000 and includes eight practitioners from Sa'eed. It will be the main organization responsible for implementing the safeguarding plan.
Paragraph 10(b): According to the request, it is hoped that the project will help increase the viability of the element thanks to the expected involvement of entities such as the Ministry of Industry and other entrepreneurs. The task of such entities is to promote the production of raw materials at the local level. However, the sustainability and multiplier effects of the project are not convincingly described in the file; this may be connected with the overall proposed safeguarding plan not being sufficiently developed in its current form and strategy.
- Decides to refer to the requesting State Party the International Assistance request and further invites it to submit a revised request to the Committee for examination during a following cycle.