Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.23

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Bangladesh has nominated Rickshaws and rickshaw painting in Dhaka (No. 01589) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The rickshaw is a small, three-wheeled passenger vehicle that is pulled by one person. It is a recognized feature of Dhaka and Bangladesh as a whole. Traditionally made by hand by a small group of craftsmen, almost every part of a rickshaw is painted with colourful floral patterns, natural imagery, birds and animals, creative depictions of historical events, fables, national heroes, movie stars and text. Rickshaws are also decorated extensively with tassels, plastic flowers and tinsel. As they are slow-moving vehicles, the paintings and decorations are easily visible to onlookers, thus becoming a roving exhibition. Decorated rickshaws are emblematic of urban life in Dhaka, resulting in exhibitions and festive events and often featuring in films and other artworks. The traditional process of fashioning rickshaws is transmitted by craftsmen in rickshaw workshops, orally and through hands-on training. Rickshaw painting artists work on commission and usually pass on their knowledge and skills to their children and close relatives. While all rickshaw craftsmen are men, painters include men and women. Rickshaws and rickshaw painting are viewed as a key part of the city’s cultural tradition and a dynamic form of urban folk art, providing inhabitants with a sense of shared identity and continuity.

  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 concerns the craft of rickshaw building and painting, mainly in the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Rickshaw craftsmen and painters are the most prominent bearers and practitioners of the element. During the building process, rickshaw craftsmen work in teams of five in workshops. Rickshaw painters are commissioned to create decorations for the rickshaws in their homes. Rickshaw craftsmen and painters have different modes of transmission. The former work mainly with hired apprentices, to whom they transmit the craft orally and via demonstration; habit and continued practice are key to mastering the skills. The latter mostly transmit their skill informally to their children or relatives. The element highlights the importance of hard work and cooperation and embodies important cultural meanings through the creative depiction of symbols, natural scenery, historical events and contemporary themes.

R.2:   Locally and nationally, inscription would increase visibility of the element thanks to the attention it would bring to its practitioners and bearers. It would highlight the role of intangible cultural heritage in contributing to people’s sustainable livelihoods. Participation in international events would also bring visibility to the element. Dialogue among the communities, groups and individuals concerned will be enhanced, as well as respect for the creativity reflected in the element. As an environmentally friendly means of transportation, rickshaws also contribute to sustainable development.

R.3:   Past and current safeguarding measures include the transmission of the element, and the formation of the ‘Bangladesh Rickshaw Art Society’, which facilitates trainings, workshops and exhibitions, and ensures practitioners’ welfare. State support includes promotional activities, such as through the Bangladesh National Museum. Proposed safeguarding measures entail establishing a space for the element and its practitioners, government patronage aimed at increasing the welfare of practitioners, ensuring proper transmission of the element, and rickshaw exhibitions under government sponsorship. The measures by the Bangladesh government take into consideration the demands that have been posed by the relevant communities. The Ministry of Cultural Affairs will implement and monitor the safeguarding measures, in collaboration with organizations such as the National Museum, the Bangla Academy and the Folklore Museum. They will provide administrative and financial resources and foster interagency coordination, collaboration with NGOs and public-private partnerships. The community participated in planning the measures and will take part in implementing them.

R.4:   The Bangla Academy – a statutory national institution – proposed the nomination and sought the active participation of the communities concerned, namely through the Bangladesh Rickshaw Art Society. The members participated in the preparation of the nomination by providing information. Rickshaw craftsmen and painters took part in the process of preparing the nomination file, by expressing their views and sharing their ideas about the need to safeguard the element. They actively contributed to all stages of the nomination process and carefully considered all details and aspects of the nomination. Letters of consent were provided to demonstrate practitioners and communities’ free, prior and informed consent for the nomination.

R.5:   The element has been inventoried as ‘Rickshaws and Rickshaw Painting in Dhaka’ since September 2022, and is part of the National ICH Inventory. The Bangla Academy, acting for the State Party (the Ministry of Cultural Affairs) is the responsible body for the inventory. The nomination file explains how a cultural survey led to the initial identification of the element as a potential intangible cultural heritage element. Subsequent research and cooperation with practitioners has been carried out, and seminars and exhibitions have been organized. The element was first identified in 2007. Information about the element was updated in 2016, and three times in 2022, following the intervention of the NGO Sadhona. Regular updating – including to add new elements and revise existing ones – takes place through a five-step process.

  1. Decides to inscribe Rickshaws and rickshaw painting in Dhaka on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for the submission of an improved file as well as the development of a detailed inventory system, following the decision of the Committee to refer the file in 2018;
  3. Further commends the State Party for producing a good quality video that provides a detailed visual presentation of the cultural practices associated with the element;
  4. Encourages the State Party to ensure the widest possible community participation in the implementation of safeguarding measures;
  5. Recalls the importance of using vocabulary appropriate to the spirit of the Convention and of avoiding expressions such as ‘unique’ and ‘exclusive’.