Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 17.COM 7.B.39

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Andorra and France have nominated Bear festivities in the Pyrenees (No. 01846) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Bear festivities take place every winter in five villages in the Pyrenees mountain range located in Andorra and France. During the event, young men dress up as bears and run through the streets trying to catch participants. The festivities are punctuated by dances, speeches in Catalan and music. The entire local population takes part, hunting the bears and welcoming the spectators. Although the style varies from one village to the next, the scenario remains the same and symbolizes the end of winter, spring rebirth (with the bear waking up from hibernation) and the relationship between humans and nature. After a decline in popularity in the 1960s, the festivities have regained popularity over the last thirty years. People of all ages and backgrounds participate to different degrees, by helping with the organization, playing roles, singing or taking part in the chases. The Bear festivities are passed on through associations and schools, and within circles of family and friends. Children are also in the habit of spontaneously ‘playing Bear’. Uniting thousands of people from the Catalan region, the centuries-old event constitutes an opportunity for the population of the five Pyrenean villages to celebrate their common heritage and assert their membership of the community.

  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 element is an ancient celebration associated with bears and symbolizing the relationship between man and nature. It is held in the winter and includes a set of rituals and events such as acting, dancing and music. The file explains the roles and responsibilities of the practitioners, who are involved in organizing the celebration, role-playing, singing songs and acting. Knowledge and skills of the element are transmitted through family, friends, conferences, publications, exhibitions, schools and associations. The element unites different families and villages, and includes social criticism and satire. The element has a mythical origin and is associated with cultural practices such as language, music and dance. The element is in accordance with international human rights instruments and promotes mutual respect between generations.

R.2:   At the local level, the element's inscription will contribute to enhancing the intangible cultural heritage practices – particularly those associated with nature – of the Pyrenean mountains and valleys. At the national level, inscription will contribute to greater public awareness of the importance of safeguarding social practices, rituals and festivals in Andorra and serve as a source of inspiration for contemporary artistic creations in France. At the international level, inscription will contribute to highlighting the challenges facing intangible cultural heritage in Europe and around the world. In addition, it will enhance dialogue and exchange between the two countries while promoting closer links with other countries where similar bear dances still exist.

R.3:   The proposed safeguarding measures are structured along the following five areas: (a) documenting and making resources accessible; (b) raising awareness before and after festivities; (c) increasing transmission; (d) promoting artistic creativity; and (e) devising controlled development and encouraging exchanges. In France, information sessions and consultations were undertaken when planning the proposed safeguarding measures. These included public meetings, conferences and educational events which were open to all to participate. These activities allowed for the gathering of questions, suggestions and proposals from groups and individuals in the communities. In Andorra, the file demonstrates the communities' participation in the planning of safeguarding measures that reflected their individual and collective identity, and the communities' deep involvement in the implementation of the proposed measures.

R.4:   The nomination involved a series of bi-national collaboration meetings since 2016, which led to the joint nomination by the two States Parties. The meetings and the preparation of the joint nomination during the two territories' festivities in February 2020 gave rise to media coverage, which contributed to even greater involvement of practitioners and populations. The file explains that the communities were involved in the nomination process in three areas: (a) new awareness of the nomination and of the notion of intangible cultural heritage; (b) preparation of safeguarding measures; and (c) networking through exchanges and partnerships. The file included letters expressing the free, prior and informed consent of associations, institutions and practitioners in both France and Andorra.

R.5:   The element is included on the General Inventory of the Cultural Heritage of Andorra and the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in France. The inventories are maintained by the Department of Cultural Heritage, Ministry of Culture in Andorra and the Department of Research Management and Scientific Policy, General Directorate for Heritage of the Ministry of Culture in France, respectively. In Andorra, the inventory was established in 2010 and updated in 2020. In France, the National Inventory is updated annually. The file provides information about the inventory updating process in both States Parties and of the involvement of the communities in the inventorying process.

  1. Decides to inscribe Bear festivities in the Pyrenees on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Encourages the States Parties to plan and implement more joint safeguarding measures for the element.