Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 16.COM 8.B.32

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Peru has nominated Pottery-related values, knowledge, lore and practices of the Awajún people (no. 01557) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Awajún people of northern Peru view pottery as an example of their harmonious relationship with nature. The pottery preparation process comprises five stages: the collection of materials, modelling, firing, decorating and finishing. Each stage of the process has a meaning and associated values that are told in the people’s oral traditions. The process also entails the necessary skills and knowledge to create and decorate the pots. Artisans use specific tools, including grinding and polishing stones, a wooden board, a modelling tool and a paint brush made of human hair. The pots are decorated with geometrical patterns inspired by elements of nature such as plants, animals, mountains and stars. They are used for cooking, drinking, eating and serving food, as well as for rituals and ceremonies. But they also play an important social role. Seen as a means of expressing one’s personality, generosity and intimate life, the thousand-year-old practice has permitted the empowerment of Awajún women, who look after and sow the plants they use to make and decorate their pots. The main bearers of the Awajún pottery knowledge, lore and traditions are the Dukúg wisewomen, female elders who pass the practice on to other women in their families.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1: The art of pottery making is based on deep knowledge of nature and the environment. The craft is practiced primarily by women who demonstrate their personality, generosity and intimate lives through the craft. Traditional learning of values, knowledge, lore and practices associated with the element is transmitted through observation, dialogue and constant practice, mainly within family circles from Dukúg to younger women. The geometric designs are influenced by plants, animals, mountains and stars. The related values, knowledge, lore and practices form part of memory and tradition and are associated with language, productive activities and traditional childbearing. Pottery itself is essential in Awajún rituals and requires concentration, discipline, skills and respect. It is associated with the sustainable use of the environment and includes care for and cultivation of plants used for pottery and decoration. The practice is also related to stories linked with nature.

R.2: At the local level, inscription will raise awareness about the value of other intangible cultural heritage elements within the Awajún culture, as well as about the importance of language as a vehicle for the transmission of living heritage and for strengthening cultural identity. At the national and international levels, there will be increased awareness about the role of ancestral lore and values in preserving and protecting the environment, its associated cultural diversity and the pivotal role of women in transmission and continuity of culture. Inscription will encourage dialogue about traditions from different regions and countries and place women in high esteem. The craft itself allows women to draw on their experience and creativity.

R.3:  Safeguarding initiatives have largely been carried out by the Dukúg. The State, through regional representatives and its Ministries of Culture, Foreign Trade and Tourism, have also supported participation in various pottery expositions and fairs. A series of measures have been proposed, each with an implementation timeline, objectives and responsible entities. Notable measures include reforestation by craft organizations, incorporation of Dukúg to teach pottery in schools, exchange meetings for experience-sharing among artisans, and preparation of bilingual educational materials. The State Party will provide technical assistance, coordinate regional and national craft fairs and assist with the reforestation projects through its various entities. Involvement of communities in developing the measures and their role in implementation is clearly explained.

R.4:  The file demonstrates the widest possible community involvement, including with potters, male and female community leaders, officials, representatives of the Awajún people, authorities of the Provincial Municipality of Condorcanqui, authorities of the Regional Government of Amazonas and members of the Decentralized Directorate of Culture of Amazonas and the Directorate of Intangible Heritage. Meetings were held in a sequenced and logical manner towards the development of the nomination. There were a series of measures undertaken to validate free, prior and informed consent, including meeting minutes, attendance lists, signing of consent letters, accreditation documents and photographs. There are no restrictions governing access.

R.5:  The element is included on the Declarations of Cultural Heritage of the Nation via a Vice-Ministerial Resolution in 2017 and is administered by The Directorate of Intangible Heritage in the Ministry of Culture. It was inventoried via a collaborative process involving State and regional institutions and bearers, including craftswomen associations. The inventory itself is updated every five years with new information provided by the communities.

  1. Decides to inscribe Pottery-related values, knowledge, lore and practices of the Awajún people on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party on the preparation of a well-elaborated file, which can serve as an example to highlight the valuable role of living heritage in indigenous contexts related to living sustainably and creatively in and with the natural ecosystem;
  3. Encourages the State Party to pay attention to the potential risk of over-commercialization of the element.