Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.41

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Lithuania has nominated Sodai straw garden making in Lithuania (No. 01987) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Sodai straw gardens are hanging ornaments made from the stalks of grains. This practice involves the cultivation of grain (typically rye), the treatment of straw and the creation of geometric structures of varying sizes. The structures are then decorated with details symbolizing fertility and prosperity. Sodai gardens are believed to reflect the pattern of the universe and are associated with well-being and spirituality. They are hung over the cradles of babies and over a wedding or family table to wish happiness to newborns, fertility to newlyweds or harmony to the family. Lithuanian homes are also frequently decorated with sodai gardens for Easter and Christmas. Some sodai-making families have been practising the tradition for generations. Although most of the practitioners are women, workshops exist and are open to people of all ages and genders. The practice is passed on informally within families or during events such as festivals, exhibitions, conferences and summer camps. An integral part of traditional wooden home interiors, sodai gardens are viewed as spiritual gifts. They provide a sense of shared cultural heritage and continuity to the practising communities while strengthening communal partnerships, intergenerational bonds and cultural diversity.

  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:   Sodai straw garden making is a craft in Lithuania. The production process includes cultivating the grains, treating the straws and creating and placing the ornaments. Sodai straw gardens are made for special occasions and to adorn houses. Bearers represent different age groups and social and professional backgrounds, and include individuals and families. Practitioners are mostly women, but the practice is open to all and is inclusive of socially vulnerable individuals. Within the community, knowledge and experience is shared during various events, primarily at exhibitions, conferences, creative workshops and practical courses. The element is also transmitted formally and informally through open seminars, educational activities and public demonstrations. In addition to being used for interior decoration, sacredness and spirituality are attributed to the sodai straw gardens. They are linked to calendar and life cycle events, and are believed to strengthen intergenerational connections and promote the wellbeing of the craftspersons and the recipients. Sodai gardens represent equality, coherence, harmony and respect for the social and natural environments.

R.2:   Inscription of the element would encourage local communities, groups and individuals to understand the importance of safeguarding the element and their responsibilities in the transmission and dissemination of the related knowledge, skills, beliefs and practices. Increased awareness-raising activities in local and regional media, civil society, public and private institutions would contribute to promoting the element as well as other intangible cultural heritage. At the national level, inscription would help unite stakeholders in the implementation of the Safeguarding Measures’ Plan, preserving, promoting, disseminating and transmitting the element to future generations. Furthermore, inscription would create a new international space for dialogue about decorative crafts and their aesthetic and ritualistic functions. Inscription would also provide opportunities for joint projects and partnerships.

R.3:   Past and current safeguarding measures by practitioners and NGOs include exhibitions, training courses, recordings and dissemination of information through media and social media networks. National and local public institutions were involved in collecting and displaying related materials, making databases, and organizing camps, seminars and conferences. The measures also account for access and availability of raw materials, academic research and data access, awareness raising efforts, and access and dissemination actions. The communities were also involved in proposing the safeguarding measures and will participate in their implementation. Surveys were conducted and the responses were consolidated by a Nomination Drafting Group.

R.4:   The Vilnius Ethnic Culture Centre and the community-based NGO Dangaus Sodai took the lead in drafting the nomination file via a Nomination Drafting Group. Several individual practitioners also actively participated in the nomination process, providing information about the element and demonstrating their knowledge, skills and traditional transmission methods. The Lithuanian Council for Culture financed a project to facilitate the preparation of the file. The Vilnius Ethnic Cultural Centre and the Lithuanian National Culture Centre coordinated the nomination. Community members situated in various parts of Lithuania were interviewed as part of the nomination video preparation. In addition to letters of consent, a video of consent was also submitted with the nomination file.

R.5:   Since 2017, the element has been included in the Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory, administered by the Lithuanian National Culture Centre. The Vilnius Ethnic Culture Centre submitted the application, which was coordinated by active Sodai makers, teachers and artisans and included the input of about twenty other makers. The Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory is updated once a year. The status of the elements is monitored through reports submitted every five years. Updating is coordinated by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory working group of the Lithuanian National Culture Centre, and an Evaluation Commission reviews applications.

  1. Decides to inscribe Sodai straw garden making in Lithuania on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party on a well-prepared file that includes clear descriptions of the element’s social meanings and cultural functions, and on the wide involvement of the communities in the preparation of the nomination file.