- Takes note that Estonia has nominated Building and use of expanded dugout boats in the Soomaa region (01680) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding: The Estonian expanded dugout boat from the Soomaa region is a canoe-like boat, hollowed out from a single tree (usually aspen), with expanded sides and a shallow base. The building of a dugout boat is a complex process, beginning with the identification of a suitable tree and culminating with the boat’s launch. Dugout boatbuilding is a communal activity involving masters and apprentices. The practice is transmitted through apprenticeships and formal studies, and it is accompanied by storytelling about legendary masters and their boats. Dugout boats form an essential part of everyday culture for Soomaa residents. Until the mid-nineteenth century, they were used for daily transport and fishing. With the advent of modern and cheaper boat types and extensive road networks, dugout boats are no longer indispensable for everyday life. Despite their continued cultural significance and recreational uses (including for nature trips and hobby fishing) the element is also threatened by factors such as a lack of knowledge-transfer between masters and apprentices, weak demand for boat building and use, the limited availability of raw materials, and declining populations in the Soomaa region. Consequently, only five master practitioners remain, and for the past two decades, only one or two dugout boats have been built each year.
- 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: There are only five master practitioners of the element, all of whom are between the ages of forty to sixty years old. There are also approximately forty men with some experience in dugout boatbuilding. Although women are not traditionally builders of the canoes, they do use them, and the masters are open to having women learn the skill. The dugout boats are used as vehicles during the flooding season in the Soomaa community, which is comprised of 850 people. The dugouts are also used across the Pärnu River basin, the Kasari River, Matsalu Bay (Western Estonia), the Emajõgi River, and its tributary, the Ahja River (Eastern Estonia). The process of building a canoe starts with identifying a suitable tree, shaping the canoe, expanding the sides and launching the boat. Masters represent many fields, from farming to academia and business, and they live across Estonia. Since the 2000s, one or two dugout boats have been built each summer, usually led by one or two masters accompanied by five or six apprentices. Transmission is also done through scientific studies and activities organized by museums. Students can study dugout boatbuilding at the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy. The use and building of the boats have a function of leisure and heritage exchange among bearers.
U.2: The viability of the element is threatened as only one or two boats are built per year and there is limited interest among youth. The main threats to the element include: a limited number of master practitioners as identified in U.1, lack of knowledge-transfer between masters and apprentices, weak demand for boat building and use, limited availability of raw materials, and declining populations in the Soomaa region. While the file projects that the element can remain viable for the next ten to twenty years, its viability is uncertain beyond that point. Collectively, the threats mentioned in the file indicate that the element is at risk and in need of urgent safeguarding to ensure its long-term viability.
U.3: The proposed safeguarding plan is well-structured. There is alignment between the objectives, planned actions, implementation schedule and budget. There is also strong commitment among the main stakeholders concerned and the State Party to bring the plan to fruition. The main objective is to ensure the viability of the element in the coming decades by training a set number of master canoeists. There are six specific objectives outlined in the plan, including the transmission of knowledge to the next generation, the revitalization of canoe use, awareness raising, community engagement, the shaping of forestry practices associated with the element, and capacity building for the Estonian Dugout Boat Society.
U.4: The file demonstrates that the communities concerned have been involved throughout the nomination process, including during brainstorming sessions, workshops, consultations, meetings, events and gatherings. Although standard letters of consent with signatures were used, free, prior and informed consent by forty-eight people is established in the file. Approximately two-thirds of them represent Soomaa local communities (including residents of the Tipu, Riisa and Sandra villages), and one-third represents those involved in the protection and promotion of dugout boat culture across Estonia. The signed letters of consent were preceded by presentations about the nomination process. There are no customary practices related to access and the element is open to inclusive participation.
U.5: The element was inscribed in 2016 on the Estonian Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The inventory is administered by the Eesti Rahvakultuuri Keskus (Estonian Folk Culture Centre) and is updated every five years. The element, which is inscribed as ‘Building of expanded dugout boat in Soomaa’, was updated in January 2020. The mechanism of updating the inventory is based on conducting new research through interviews with practitioners and observations about related events.
- Decides to inscribe Building and use of expanded dugout boats in the Soomaa region on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
- Commends the State Party on the preparation of an exemplary file and video that reflect the spirit of the Convention;
- Further commends the State Party for its proactive implementation of safeguarding activities.