Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.A.1

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Syrian Arab Republic has nominated Traditional Syrian glassblowing (No. 01956) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Traditional Syrian glassblowing is the artisanal craft of creating glass objects using pieces of waste glass that is practiced mostly in Damascus. To create an object, pieces of glass are placed inside a handmade brick oven to melt. The craftspeople twist the molten glass around a hollow metal rod. They then blows into the rod to inflate the glass, using metal tongs to mould it into the desired shape, such as a cup, vase, lamp or ornament. Powdered dyes are used to colour the glass while it is still melted or to decorate the objects once they have cooled and hardened. Cultural symbols, such as the hand of Fatima, are often painted or engraved on the glass. Traditional Syrian glassblowing is characterized by the white, blue, green and crimson colours used, as well as the painted gold motifs. In the past, the practice remained within specific families, with the father passing on the secrets of the craft to his children. Today, the related knowledge and skills are passed down informally through hands-on practice and instruction in workshops. A source of livelihood for artisans, Damascene glassblowing contributes to a sense of continuity and belonging. It is also associated with social, spiritual and historical spaces and with the practices that take place therein.

  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:   Experts, craftspeople, apprentices, artists and city shopkeepers are among the bearers and practitioners. The knowledge and skills are passed down through non-formal intergenerational learning and through the direct application of the skills and knowledge by the craftspeople. Today, a limited part of the craft is also transmitted formally within technical institutes and high schools. The element contributes to the socio-economic well-being and the sustainable livelihoods of its practitioners when they are able to sell their products. The element is linked to places of social, spiritual and historical significance, and the objects depict various cultural symbols. Personal and creative expression and a feeling of belonging are fostered while practicing the element. Female participation is also encouraged. The element is aligned with the sustainable use of resources and the sustainable development goals on decent work and economic growth.

U.2:   The primary threat to the element results from the war that has displaced many communities and, consequently, displaced practitioners from their workspace. Practitioners have had to migrate, and workshops, tools and supplies have been destroyed or abandoned due to security risks. Fuel shortages, a result of a post-war economy facing economic sanctions, have also impacted the element’s viability. Traditional modes of transmission are no longer sufficient. Other threats include the diminishing number of workshops, a weakened chain of transmission, limited economic avenues for bearers and practitioners, and a lack of interest among younger generations.

U.3:   A detailed safeguarding plan is presented, and the objectives, activities, timetable and budget are clearly explained. The plan has four specific objectives, with the overall goal of enhancing the element’s viability as a creative industry that will positively impact the well-being of its practitioners. The plan includes: (a) increasing awareness and community participation; (b) involving practitioners in enhancing the transmission of their intangible cultural heritage through education programmes; (c) increasing the number of craftspeople and functioning workshops; and (d) encouraging community-based innovation and approaches. Expected results are clearly outlined. Practitioners participated in developing the nomination through a working group. Their involvement in implementing the safeguarding measures is clearly elaborated, as is their free, prior, informed and continued consent. The State, through its diverse ministries, is committed to supporting the safeguarding plan.

U.4:   Community participation and consent to the nomination process is clearly outlined in the nomination file. Starting from an appeal in the media by practitioners, local NGOs provided support to the practitioners, via visits to workshops and preliminary assessments. A working group with diverse representation was set up to draft and finalize the nomination. The initial working group members also reached out to other practitioners and met multiple times to prepare the file and the safeguarding plan. The attached letters attest to the prior and informed consent of the communities, groups, individuals, NGOs and government agencies concerned. 

U.5:   The National Inventory for Syrian Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements has included traditional Syrian glassblowing since 2017. The inventory is managed by the Ministry of Culture and the Syria Trust for Development. It is updated every two years. The element was identified and defined by bearers themselves with information collected by community volunteers. The processes of revising and adding elements to the inventory are clearly outlined in the file.

  1. Decides to inscribe Traditional Syrian glassblowing on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Commends the efforts by the State Party on this nomination, in light of the post-war situation in Syria;
  3. Further commends the State Party on a well-prepared file that features strong participation of the relevant communities, groups and individuals in the overall nomination process.