Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 17.COM 7.A.4

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Albania has nominated Xhubleta, skills, craftsmanship and forms of usage (No. 01880) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Xhubleta is a handcrafted garment worn by highland women and girls in Northern Albania, characterised by its undulating bell form. Predominantly black with colourful embroidered motifs, the crafting process entails preparing the shajak (woven felt), cutting, sewing and embroidering symbolic figures. Xhubleta was once used in everyday life from the age of puberty, indicating the wearer's social and economic status. However, its use and production has been decreasing over the past decades due to socio-political and economic reasons. The new policies set by the socialist system in the 1960s altered traditional cultural patterns, bringing changes to the daily lives of the mountain communities and the use and production of Xhubleta. As women had to work in the agricultural socialist cooperatives, Xhubleta was no longer practical for everyday life. Furthermore, state collectivization led to a lack of raw materials for its production. Today, few women possess the knowledge of the entire process, and traditional family-based transmission is rare. Nevertheless, the garment has maintained its social and spiritual significance and is still considered an integral part of highland identity.

  1. 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:   Xhubleta is regarded as the identifying element of highland women in northern Albania. It involves specific skills for the creation of Xhubleta. The bearers and practitioners are mostly older women based in rural areas of the North Albanian Alps. Other bearers include craftswomen and professional tailors from associations and/or centres, and student practitioners. Women keep the dresses for family celebrations and transmit knowledge on maintenance and repairs to their daughters. Some women even keep the Xhubleta to be worn on their afterlife journey. In addition, the knowledge is transmitted among individual artisans and through artisan associations, the Departments of Textile Engineering at the University of Tirana and at the Design and Fashion Atelier at the University of Arts. The social function of Xhubleta is reflected in its ceremonial and festive use, and helps strengthen the sense of belonging to the community. The element has a strong cultural and spiritual significance associated with the highland communities.

U.2:   The file explains that the viability of the element has been in decline since the 1960s, when, due to different socio-political and economic reasons, women stopped wearing Xhubleta in everyday life. While there was growing interest in the element after the fall of the socialist system, the transmission to younger generations has not been effective due to the lack of tools, organic materials, and awareness among young generations. The transmission of the element is also highly threatened as only a few older women have knowledge of the element. The file also explains various other threats, which include the lack of organic wool for making the garment, the degradation of shajak (woven felt) production, the lack of artisans producing the tools needed for Xhubleta craftsmanship processes, and the lack of inter-sectoral partnership.

U.3:   The proposed safeguarding plan was developed in collaboration with community members who assessed the threats to the element and identified the three objectives of the safeguarding plan. The plan aims to ensure the infrastructure needed for the revitalisation of the element, enhance the capacities of making Xhubleta and increase the visibility of Xhubleta among community members. The proposed activities include analysing the current context, producing a booklet about the element and how it is made, and establishing the Xhubleta Training Centre. In addition, activities to train the trainers will be conducted. The plan also includes promotional activities such as the creation of booklets, leaflets, stationeries, radio and TV programmes, and festivals to enhance the element's visibility. The Ministry of Culture, through the Directorate of Conception and Feasibility of Cultural Projects, will monitor the activities and partner organizations.

U.4:   The file demonstrates the extensive involvement of the communities in the nomination process. Women, young girls, artisans, collectors and scholars were engaged in proposing the nomination of the element to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. The community contributed materials, information, statements and practical evidence of the skills and knowledge of making Xhubleta. In addition, the community actively participated in the nomination process, by providing statements, interviews and audio-visual evidence. Individual and community meetings were held with various interest groups to collect information and contribute to the application form. The NGOs and community members will work together on the long-term goals of creating tools, supplying raw materials, creating target groups and establishing a centre for the safeguarding of the element. Various letters and videos of consent from the communities were included in the nomination file.

U.5:   The element is included on three inventories, which are maintained by the National Institute for Registration of the Cultural Heritage, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture of Albania. Elements on the inventories are updated based on community needs, changes identified or new legal procedures. The requests for updates to the inventories are proposed by bearers, NGOs or professional institutions and addressed to the National Committee of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which meets once or twice a year.

  1. Decides to inscribe Xhubleta, skills, craftsmanship and forms of usage on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Further takes note that Albania has requested International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund in the amount of US$91,092.00 for the implementation of the safeguarding plan for Xhubleta, skills, craftmanship and forms of usage (No. 01948) :

This two-year safeguarding programme aims to support efforts to enhance the practice and transmission of Xhubleta craftsmanship in northern Albania. It has three main objectives: ensuring the needed infrastructure for the revitalization of the craft, enhancing the capacities of bearers to make Xhubleta and increasing the visibility of Xhubleta and of intangible cultural heritage values among the community. The proposed activities include identifying and creating a network of bearers, establishing a training centre, acquiring the necessary weaving looms and materials, and producing audiovisual documentation of the activities to support future safeguarding efforts as well as project assessment and sustainability. To enhance the capacities of key stakeholders, the programme will organize four workshops for bearers, community members and textile university students on intangible cultural heritage. Increasing the element's visibility will entail developing a brochure and digital platform containing interviews with participants and educational materials, and organizing a local event where bearers can exchange knowledge, demonstrate the art of making Xhubleta to communities and raise awareness nationally and internationally. The programme will be implemented by the Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with the Municipality of Malësi e Madhe, the ‘Jehona e Kelmendit’ Association, the ‘Gruaja tek Gruaja’ association and ARTE Foundation.

  1. Further considers that, from the information included 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: There was extensive involvement of the communities, groups and individuals concerned during the preparation of the request. Members of the community have been active since the beginning of the process, collecting essential data and proposing specific activities and approving the safeguarding plan. They will also take part in the implementation of the proposed activities. This includes older bearers, who will participate in the workshops and help train, share and spread the knowledge and the skills of making Xhubleta.

Criterion A.2: Given the proposed activities to be undertaken, the proposed budget is appropriate. Specific details, descriptions and calculations of the cost of the proposed project were clearly explained in the file.

Criterion A.3: The proposed activities are related to the safeguarding of the element through capacity building, enhancing the awareness and viability of the element, and ensuring the infrastructure needed for the revitalization of Xhubleta craftsmanship. The request is coherent with the key activities of the proposed safeguarding plan to address the identified threats to the element. The file further explains that the Ministry of Culture will be the implementing body with partner organizations, and will also monitor the activities, reports and activities of the partner organizations.

Criterion A.4: The file explains that the results and benefits of the project will be sustained by the increased number of the practitioners. In addition, the established network of knowledgeable and skilled people will ensure the sustainability of the proposed safeguarding plan. Once the project is completed, the Xhubleta Training Centre will be accessible to the general public and administered by the Municipality of Malësia e Madhe. Students will be able to attend various workshops at the Xhubleta Training Centre and support the continual transmission of the element.

Criterion A.5: The State Party is to cover 9.3 percent of the total amount of the project, while another 9.3 percent will be contributed from other sources. In other words, 81.4 percent of the total amount of the project is requested from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund. The contribution from the State Party is expected to cover mainly the convening of capacity building workshops and the project coordination with a few other small expenses.

Criterion A.6: The proposed plan will contribute to building the communities' capacity through the workshops, with a focus on safeguarding measures and policy development. In addition, the Xhubleta Training Centre will have future activities and training programmes to support the transmission of the element. The training strategy will build upon existing resources, relying on bearers who possess the knowledge of making Xhubleta to train new practitioners. The new practitioners will in turn be capable of safeguarding the knowledge and ensure transmission to the future generations.

Criterion A.7: The State Party benefited from International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund for two completed projects: (a) ‘Inventory of Albanian folk iso-polyphony’ (US$24,500, March 2011 – March 2012); (b) preparatory assistance (Register of Good Safeguarding Practices) for the project ‘National Folk Festival of Gjirokastra (NFFoGj), 50 years of best practice in safeguarding Albanian intangible heritage’ (US$9,800, November 2018 – April 2019); ); as well as for one ongoing project: (c) ‘Community based Inventory of ICH in Albania with a view to safeguarding and transmitting to future generations’ (US$213,260, February 2020 – October 2022). The work stipulated by the contracts related to these projects was and is being carried out in compliance with UNESCO's regulations.

Paragraph 10(a): The proposed project is national in scope and involves the participation of communities, under the coordination of the Ministry of Culture. The collaboration with the municipality of Malësi e Madhe together with several associations, a foundation and NGOs are foreseen, each with clearly defined responsibilities.

Paragraph 10(b): The project will enhance the visibility of Xhubleta, train new practitioners and provide tools for future training and production of the garment. The new practitioners will be able to offer services to the community, maintaining old Xhubletas and making new ones. NGOs and socially responsible businesses could be interested in investing in the production of Xhubleta by supporting startup initiatives. These efforts could encourage more community members to enroll in training programmes and further increase the number of practitioners. In addition, the Xhubleta Training Centre could inspire other regions in the country to replicate this model.

  1. Decides to approve the International Assistance request from Albania for the implementation of the safeguarding plan for Xhubleta, skills, craftmanship and forms of usage and grants the amount of US$91,092 to the State Party to this end;
  2. Invites the State Party to use Form ICH-04-Report to report on the use of the assistance granted;
  3. Commends the State Party for a well-prepared file, that can serve as a good example of a comprehensive safeguarding plan to address the viability of an element that is under threat and in need of urgent safeguarding;
  4. Further commends the State Party for considering the reusability of materials and environmental sustainability in the process of safeguarding the element.