Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.21

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Azerbaijan and Türkiye have nominated Craftsmanship of mother of pearl inlay (No. 01874) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Mother of pearl inlay is the practice of inserting mother of pearl pieces into wooden objects such as Koran cases, desks, chests, chairs, mirrors, jewel cases and musical instruments. Craftspeople begin by cutting the inner shells of molluscs into different shapes. They draw motifs on a piece of wood, carve out the outlines and shape the mother of pearl pieces, which are then inlaid to the wood. Finally, the surface is polished with sandpaper, burnt for colouring and varnished with melted resin. Practitioners use thick woods such as walnut, ebony and mahogany, preferring dark colours to contrast with the white of the mother of pearl. Geometrical, floral and calligraphic motifs are often used for embellishment. For craftspeople and their families, the element represents a part of daily life and is a source of identity and pride. It is transmitted through apprenticeships and in universities, public education centres and workshops. Today, craftspeople also share their knowledge and skills through social media and online blogs, forums and workshops, thus strengthening social cohesion and cultural exchange across different countries. They also contribute to the preservation of tangible heritage and of social and cultural memory by restoring historical objects exhibited in museums and monuments.

  1. Decides 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 practitioners are mostly men, but some women are involved. Local unions, NGOs, experts and apprentices contribute to the transmission of the element, either within families or as part of formal and non-formal education. Transmission entails creating new objects as well as restoring existing objects. The daily use of objects inlaid with mother of pearl has contributed to the creation of cultural bonds and a sense of continuity from past to present in Azerbaijan and Türkiye. It also plays a role in personal development, mental relaxation and rehabilitation, while fostering social and cultural interaction between its practitioners. Special attention is paid to the sustainable sourcing of raw materials.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription of the element would raise awareness of intangible cultural heritage in other domains and encourage local administrators to support the safeguarding efforts of craftspeople. Inscription would encourage local craftspeople to safeguard traditional crafts and the knowledge and skills that have been transmitted from generation to generation. At the national levels, inscription would promote consolidated safeguarding efforts while increasing visibility of traditional handicrafts and living heritage in general. It would also promote the sustainable use of natural resources and increase awareness about the relationship between nature and culture. At the international level, inscription would illustrate the potential of living heritage and multinational files to connect people with diverse backgrounds. Inscription of the element would further contribute to knowledge and experience exchange among craftspeople around the world.

R.3:   Although past and current safeguarding measures in Azerbaijan have primarily taken place within families, in addition, NGOs have been involved in activities such as training courses. In Türkiye, measures include the creation of an inventory of experts and the coordination of exhibitions, vocational courses, awareness-raising activities, awards, symposiums, conferences and workshops. In Azerbaijan, safeguarding measures include: (a) policy actions; (b) a programme on safeguarding living heritage through legal protection and intellectual property rights; and (c) the inclusion of the element in school curricula. A series of joint measures are also proposed focusing on exchange and networking, as well as on assessing and monitoring the effectiveness and sustainability of the safeguarding measures. The measures were conceived with the participation of communities, experts and other stakeholders in meetings. Their active feedback and views were solicited, and the roles of the communities in the implementation were outlined. The submitting States plan to allocate funds and mobilize human resources to support and implement the measures.

R.4:   In Azerbaijan, the preparation of the nomination was coordinated by a working group composed of mother of pearl inlay experts, community members and Ministry of Culture staff. The working group met three times. A survey was published to collect information from the communities concerned about the element’s identification and functions, the roles of practitioners, and concrete safeguarding measures needed to sustain the element’s viability. In Türkiye, an online working group was formed to prepare the nomination file and determine a safeguarding action plan for the element. The group consisted of practitioners, bearers, academics and NGOs. It provided the necessary information and suggested concrete safeguarding measures via e-mail, online meetings and interviews. The representatives of Türkiye and Azerbaijan met in person to discuss the nomination and create a timetable for the preparation process. The States Parties coordinated the multinational procedures and obtained community consents in parallel.

R.5:   In Azerbaijan, the element has been included in the Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Azerbaijan since 2020. In Türkiye, it has been included in the Intangible Cultural Heritage National Inventory since 2014. The register in Azerbaijan is updated every three years, whereas the inventory in Türkiye is revised twice a year. The nomination file provides information about the updating process and community involvement for both submitting States.

  1. Decides to inscribe Craftsmanship of mother of pearl inlay on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the States Parties on a well-prepared file.