Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.16

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Armenia has nominated Tradition of blacksmithing in Gyumri (No. 01967) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Blacksmithing, or the creation and repair of iron objects, has played a central role in the local identity and cultural characteristics of the city of Gyumri, Armenia for centuries. Although the practice nearly disappeared in Armenia in the mid-twentieth century, it has survived in Gyumri, where inhabitants continue to preserve existing items – such as window lattices, fences, gates, doors, candlesticks and chandeliers – made by old masters and to forge and use the iron products in their daily life. Current blacksmiths, some of which are fifth- or sixth-generation masters, play an active role in safeguarding and transmitting the tradition of urban blacksmithing as well as its history, traditional skills and knowledge. They typically transmit the practice informally within their families, passing on the skills and styles to their children and grandchildren. In addition, blacksmithing is also transmitted formally through community museums and in two specialized educational institutions: the Gyumri Fine Arts Academy and the Gyumri Craftsmanship College N 1. A key part of the city of Gyumri’s architectural identity, blacksmithing can be seen both in the interior and exterior of private and public buildings and is associated with the values of diligence, honesty, fair work and mutual respect.

  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:   Blacksmithing in Gyumri, Armenia is a craft that is performed in urban areas and is characterized by its artistic and aesthetic qualities. Four main characteristics of the element include the knowledge and skills of blacksmithing, the artistic processing of iron, the transmission between family members and the use of the end products. Its bearers are Gyumri community members, including the blacksmiths that create or preserve the objects or the people who use the objects. The practice is transmitted within families of blacksmiths, and through educational institutions and museums. Women representation in the craft is gradually increasing. Throughout its omnipresence in the city, blacksmithing plays a social and cultural role in Gyumri. The forged artifacts are bought and used in many households, including their interiors and exteriors.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription would contribute to a positive attitude towards the element and its practitioners as well as to policy revision regarding the element. At the national level, there would be increased awareness about the element in other communities. Inscription would also serve as a catalyst for the establishment of a State policy for safeguarding living heritage in Gyumri in general. At the international level, the element would be accessible to other practitioners and contribute to exhibitions, workshops, international exchanges and joint projects. There would be increased dialogue among craftspersons, lecturers and students, scientific, educational and non-governmental organizations, community museums, local authorities and business organizations. Inscription would also highlight the individual creativity of expert blacksmiths and the traditional technical and technological skills of the craft.

R.4:   The file describes the participation of the Gyumri community in the nomination process. The Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport established a focus group in response to the initiative for inscription that came from the community. Regional and local authorities, the Gyumri municipality, post-secondary and higher education institutions, museums, NGOs, blacksmiths and their families, and research centres participated in the focus group. Free, prior and informed consent to the nomination is expressed in several consent forms from a range of communities, groups and individuals involved in the blacksmithing tradition.

R.5:   Armenia has three inventories of intangible heritage which are updated regularly every one or two years and are maintained by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of the Republic of Armenia. The element is listed on the inventories as ‘Traditional Blacksmithing’ and was included in the inventory in 2010. The inventorying process involves different communities and experts. Interviews of families of blacksmiths were conducted and included in the inventory. The updating of the inventorying involves civil society, blacksmith bearers, NGOs and experts.

  1. Further considers that, from the information included in the file, and the information provided by the submitting State through the dialogue process, the nomination satisfies the following criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.3:   Past and ongoing safeguarding measures include academic publications, mapping of the work of the experts, educational programmes related to the element in the Gyumri Fine Arts Academy and the Gyumri Craftsmanship College N1, public use of the end products, documentary filmmaking, documentation and inventorying, and exhibitions. Planned safeguarding measures are comprehensive and are part of an action plan devised by the Government of Armenia. They include the ongoing mapping of aspects related to blacksmithing; audiovisual documentation, the development of safeguarding strategies, awareness-raising programmes (including a yearly festival), a permanent open air exhibition in Gyumri, masterclasses, an exhibition in the capital of Armenia, a documentary film and a dedicated webpage on the municipality’s website. The comprehensive plan for future safeguarding activities includes the role of the bearers and practitioners of blacksmithing in the implementation of these activities.

  1. Decides to inscribe Tradition of blacksmithing in Gyumri on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  2. Reminds the State Party of the importance of using vocabulary appropriate to the spirit of the Convention and of avoiding terms such as ‘originality’.