Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.35

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Iraq has nominated Traditional craft skills and arts of Al-Mudhif building (No. 01950) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Al-Mudhif is a large arched building made of reed and papyrus, both of which grow naturally in the marshes of southern Iraq. The building serves as a gathering place where members of the community can exchange, address conflicts, share experiences, tell stories and practise cultural activities and social rituals such as weddings, circumcisions, religious ceremonies and national celebrations. Al-Mudhif is also viewed as a space for transmitting traditional knowledge, values, handicraft skills, norms and customs to children and youth. It is a place to welcome visitors and guests from within and outside of Iraq. The structures are built by skilled workers and managed by tribal sheiks, but the entire community plays a part in the creation and maintenance of the space, such as by collecting the reeds and weaving the mats and rugs that are used as mattresses inside the building. The traditional customs and handicraft skills related to constructing Al-Mudhif are transmitted informally through hands-on practice and participation in cultural activities. The practice is also transmitted through stories and legends, as well as through publications and the media. Moreover, some NGOs organise workshops and activities in Al-Mudhif to raise awareness about their significance among the communities concerned.

  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 architectural characteristics of Al-Mudhif buildings are derived from Sumerian history, which is a part of the identity of local communities today. A group of specialized workers build the Mudhif and community members play a role in the life cycle of the element. Bearers and practitioners include tribal sheiks, craftsmen and ustas, Marsh Arabs and NGOs. The element plays a role in structuring social and cultural life and promoting community-based conflict resolution. The buildings are used as gathering places for the communities, event spaces, and informal schools for children. Knowledge and skills related to the element are transmitted from older to younger generations through media, education, historical documentations and through the community itself. The element promotes a spirit of solidarity, equality and respect. It incorporates traditional concepts, and as the communities concerned obtain the raw materials from the surrounding water areas, it is not detrimental to sustainable development.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription would be part of a process of promotion and self-recognition of the intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and individuals concerned, providing them with a sense of identity and continuity and strengthening family ties. Inscription would intensify national efforts to ensure the safeguarding and sustainability of this element in all its aspects. It would be conducive to incorporating the element in the state’s strategic plan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Inscription would also encourage bearers and practitioners to share their knowledge about the element. Internationally, it would highlight the creativity demonstrated through the element. Inscription would also encourage dialogue among communities, groups and individuals, promoting cooperation, tolerance, coexistence, respect, peace and solidarity.

R.3:   Past and current safeguarding measures include conserving natural resources, sharing knowledge and skills, conducting workshops, seminars and meetings on related handicrafts, and inscribing the Ahwar of Southern Iraq on the World Heritage List in 2016. State safeguarding efforts include drafting legislation on environmental protection, organizing trips, workshops and meetings, providing funding, and coordinating exhibitions and competitions. The file lists sixteen safeguarding measures, including legislative measures, the establishment of a national committee and network, promotional measures, the restoration of natural sites, research on environmental conservation, and the inclusion of building skills in educational curricula. The communities, groups, individuals and organizations concerned have been involved in planning the proposed safeguarding measures. Skilled workers will be involved in youth workshops, and certain tribal groups, individuals and NGOs expressed their willingness to participate in future programmes.

R.4:   The request to nominate the element came from the bearer communities. Several meetings were organized involving diverse groups of communities and representatives. In addition, the Cultural Relations Directorate formed a team to manage the nomination process. The team held several meetings with representatives of the related communities, cultural experts, institutions and NGO members to gather the free, prior and informed consents to nominate this element to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

R.5:   The element was included in the ‘National list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Iraq’ in 2015. The Cultural Relations Directorate-ICH Department is responsible for the inventory. The element was identified and defined with the participation of bearers and the intangible cultural heritage team, under the supervision of the Cultural Relations Directorate, which conducted trips to the Iraqi Marshes where the element is practiced. The national intangible cultural heritage List will be updated every one to two years with the cooperation and participation of the communities concerned.

  1. Decides to inscribe Traditional craft skills and arts of Al-Mudhif building on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for environmental sustainability in the process of safeguarding the element;
  3. Reminds the State Party of the importance of referring to the appropriate Convention.