Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.38

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Kyrgyzstan has nominated Elechek, Kyrgyz female headwear: traditional knowledge and rituals (No. 01985) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Elechek is a traditional female headwear consisting of a hair cap and a very long piece of white fabric that is wrapped around the head like a turban and adorned with embroidery, ribbons and jewellery. The practice is an integral part of the traditional marriage ceremony in Kyrgyzstan. A rite of passage, the ritual of wrapping the bride’s first elechek takes place at her family’s house before she leaves with the groom. During the ceremony, elders utter blessings to convey the community’s wishes for the bride and her new family, such as good health, fertility, and harmony. A married woman may wear the elechek at significant occasions, changing its styles accordingly. Many communities have developed their own styles and rituals, and the styles used can indicate a person’s age and her social and marital status. The knowledge and skills are usually transmitted informally during wrapping ceremonies, from mothers to daughters and from female elders to younger women. However, in recent years, groups of women have started transmitting the knowledge and skills in new ways, including through workshops, online video lessons and collaborations with local scholars and researchers. Elechek contributes to a shared cultural identity, strengthening intergenerational ties and promoting solidarity and empowerment.

  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 headwear exists in many styles and forms, and is accompanied by different rituals throughout the country. The main bearers and practitioners are women in rural communities, but they also include women associated with NGOs and informal groups in urban areas. The knowledge and skills related to the Elechek are mostly transmitted informally from mothers to daughters and from communities’ female elders to younger women. However, new modes of transmission have been developed over the past few years. The element performs several social functions and holds different cultural meanings. It builds local identity, particularly among women. It is also a traditional mode of communication that promotes diversity, empowers women, safeguards related living heritage (including blessings and healing rituals) and fosters artistic expression. Although it is primarily performed by women, support of the practice is widespread.

R.2:   Inscription of Elechek would draw attention to related and interlinked elements of intangible cultural heritage. The local diversity of intangible cultural heritage in general, and of Elechek in paritcular, would become a focal point for study and research. At the national level, inscription would contribute to advocacy for gender equality. It would also increase awareness among community members of their rights to practice and safeguard their intangible cultural heritage. At the international level, inscription would encourage local communities and women groups around the world to make the connection between similar elements of living heritage, gender issues and women’s empowerment. Inscription would lead to new collaboration practices and enrich dialogue about the diversity reflected in the various expressions of the element. Human creativity and respect for cultural diversity would be promoted through the creativity expressed in various techniques for wrapping, decorating and using the head gear.

R.3:   Past and current safeguarding measures focus on identification, documentation and promotion to ensure the viability of Elechek. Activities include workshops, demonstrations, classes, lectures, community-led inventorying and field research. The State Party also provides a legislative framework and promotes inventorying of intangible cultural heritage with the participation of the communities, groups and individuals concerned. The local communities, NGOs, and the State Party have developed a joint safeguarding plan that focuses on transmission, safeguarding, and inventorying. They created a working group that steered the process of developing the aforementioned plan and will supervise its implementation after inscription. The communities concerned stated their support to the implementation of the proposed measures. They were also the driving force behind the safeguarding plan, which was developed through an iterative and participatory process involving online, in-person and hybrid discussions and workshops. The State pledges financial, administrative and logistical support for the proposed measures.

R.4:   The idea to nominate Elechek was born in 2015. The proposal was supported by the communities, experts and other stakeholders from different regions of the country. The Ministry of Culture and the National Commission agreed to the proposal and a timetable was established. Several meetings and round tables about the 2003 Convention have taken place since then, highlighting the importance of community participation in the process. In January 2019, a working group was established and has since met regularly to prepare the nomination. Representatives of the communities, the Ministry of Culture, the National Commission, the National Academy of Sciences, NGOs and living heritage experts were involved in the working group. Several letters of free, prior and informed consent and a video attest to the active participation of the communities, groups and individuals concerned in the nomination process.

R.5:   The element is part of ‘The Intangible Cultural Heritage National Inventory of the Kyrgyz Republic’, administered by the Ministry of Culture, Information, Sports and Youth Policy of the Kyrgyz Republic, the National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic and the National Committee for Intangible Cultural Heritage. The element was inscribed in 2008, and supplemented in 2015. The inventory is updated every three years on average, based on inputs from relevant communities, NGOs and individuals. The identification and definition process is participatory at its core, and includes communities across the country working on a joint national inventory process.

  1. Decides to inscribe Elechek, Kyrgyz female headwear: traditional knowledge and rituals on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party on a well-prepared file that features strong participation of the communities, groups and individuals concerned in the overall nomination process.