- Takes note that Bangladesh has nominated Traditional art of nakshi kantha embroidery (no. 01588) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
Nakshi kantha is an embroidered quilt with a pictorial design and/or a floral pattern covering its surface on either side. Conventionally, there is usually a lotus medallion at the center symbolizing the universe and at each corner a tree representing the Tree of Life; the rest can be embroidered with a range of different motifs. Nakshi kantha serves a number of functions and can be used as a floor mat, a wearable wrap, a bag, or given as a gift. Each category has its own specific name. For example, the sujni is a large spread for seating guests on ceremonial occasions and the jainamaz a Muslim prayer rug. This traditional handicraft is exclusively the domain of women and has been handed down from grandmothers and mothers to daughters for centuries. While the element can be found throughout Bangladesh, it is particularly prevalent in four rural districts: Jessore, Kushtia, Chapai Nawabganj and Jamalpur. Because the element is family-based and transmitted non-formally from older women to their younger female kin, it is primarily safeguarded by its practitioners. However, national museums have collected and highlighted the element and annual fairs also take place where women may sell the embroidered cloth.
- Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
R.1: The production of nakshi kantha, an embroidered patchwork made by women is an example of the skills associated with traditional craftsmanship. The description offers an insight into how this embroidery craft serves as an empowering activity. Its transmission is considered as a ‘solemn duty’ by its bearers and practitioners, supporting the sustainability of the practice. This is further supported by the re-use of materials, which establishes this as an environmentally friendly activity. In the related gifting-practice, however, men are also part of the activity. The element fosters social harmony and serves an aesthetic purpose in relation to many households needs, from sleeping to sitting, serving, covering, folding and wrapping.
- Further considers that the information included in the file is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are satisfied:
R.2: The nomination states that the inscription of the element would elevate the prestige of the tradition bearers concerned and their artistic endeavours, in addition to contributing to the visibility of the element itself. According to the information provided, the inscription will help foster intergenerational dialogue. However, the nomination fails to explain how the inscription of the element would contribute to ensuring the visibility and awareness of the significance of intangible cultural heritage in general.
R.3: Within the community, the viability of the element is ensured through its intergenerational transmission and through the organization of promotional activities, including the annual festival of Baishakhi mela. However, the information regarding the safeguarding measures focuses on the marketing and tourism of the element without clearly identifying actions that would mitigate the effects of this new status of the element. The file lacks a convincing explanation of how the disadvantages resulting from the industrial production of nakshi kantha would be minimized. Futhermore, the State Party does not sufficiently demonstrate how the communities were involved in planning the proposed safeguarding measures or how the safeguarding measures support the activities of female embroiderers.
R.4: The involvement of the bearers (namely, female embroiderers) in the different stages of the development of the nomination is not sufficiently demonstrated. The methodology adopted to ensure the widest possible participation of all parties concerned in the preparation of the nomination does not seem to be adequately representative.
R.5: The file indicates that the agency in charge of managing the inventory is the Bangladesh National Museum, part of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. No information (either in the form or in the inventory extract) is provided on the name of the inventory in which the item is included or its reference number. However, the file indicates that it was registered in December 2007 and updated in March 2019. The nomination does not provide any information on the periodicity or modality of updating of the inventory.
Decides to refer the nomination of Traditional art of nakshi kantha embroidery to the submitting State Party and invites it to resubmit the revised nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;
Further invites the State Party to take into consideration the potential risk of over-commercialization of the element when developing the safeguarding measures;
Also invites the State Party to avoid top-down approaches in all stages of the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage by ensuring that the communities concerned are at the center of all safeguarding efforts;
Encourages the State Party, when submitting nomination files in the future, to avoid standardized letters of consent;
Further encourages the State Party, when submitting nomination files in the future, to provide information in the appropriate sections within the file.