Thirty five new elements inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

  • 13 December 2019
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Jeunes gnaoua apprenant à jouer aux crotales
© Direction du patrimoine culturel, Maroc, 2015

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage meeting in the Colombian capital inscribed 35 elements on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The new inscribed elements are:

Armenian letter art and its cultural expressions represents the centuries-old art of Armenian writing, the rich culture of decorating letters, and its numerous applications. The element is distinguished by its wide range of ornamental scripts, characterized by different shapes such as birds, animals and mythical creatures. Beyond its primary function to record and communicate information, Armenian letter art has penetrated almost all layers of society, particularly folk art. Educational institutions at all levels, youth centres and the Armenian Apostolic Church play a key role in its transmission.

Transhumance, the seasonal droving of livestock along migratory routes in the Mediterranean and Alps, is a form of pastoralism. Every year in spring and autumn, thousands of animals are driven by groups of herders along steady routes from dawn to dusk. The practice comprises horizontal transhumance, in plain or plateau regions, and vertical transhumance, typically in mountain regions. The practice shapes relations among people, animals and ecosystems and involves shared rituals and social practices, and is one of the most sustainable, efficient livestock farming methods.

In the submitting States, the date palm has given rise over the centuries to numerous associated crafts, professions and traditions. Bearers and practitioners include date palm farm owners, farmers who nurture the plant, craftspeople producing traditional related products, date traders, artists, and performers of associated folkloric tales and poems. The date palm has played a pivotal role in helping people face the challenges of life in the harsh desert environment, and the cultural relevance and proliferation of the element over the centuries demonstrate local communities’ commitment to its preservation.

Ommegang of Brussels, an historical procession and popular festival, takes place annually over two evenings in July, in the historic centre of Brussels. The celebration begins with a crossbow competition and a ceremony in the Sablon Church. Various groups then form a large procession through the city to the Grand-Place, where they join the Magistrate of Brussels. The modern Ommegang was recreated in 1928-1930 and the tradition has now evolved into a festive local event. Many people have been involved in the event over the past 40 or 50 years and groups of volunteers now form active associations.

The Gran Poder festival takes place every year on the Day of the Holy Trinity in the city of La Paz. The Parade begins with a procession involving 40,000 devotees who dance and sing in honour of the patron saint. The procession moves through the streets with 7,000 musicians, greeted by a euphoric atmosphere. On the following day, the procession members carry the patron saint on their shoulders. The festival stimulates and transforms the social life of La Paz. It is rooted in a particular way of living Andean Catholicism.

The traditional technique of making Airag in Khokhuur and its associated customs includes the production of Airag, a fermented beverage made from mare’s milk, and related equipment, such as the khokhuur (cowhide vessel). To prepare Airag, freshly-milked mare’s milk is churned inside the khokhuur over 500 times, using a starter to assist fermentation. Airag is a nutritious beverage, a staple in the Mongolian diet. Bearers and practitioners inherit the related knowledge from their parents, keeping the thousands’ years old tradition alive.

The cultural complex of Bumba-meu-boi from Maranhão is a ritualistic practice involving forms of musical, choreographic, performing and playful expression. The practice is heavily charged with symbolism. It reproduces the cycle of life, offering a metaphor for human existence itself. Each year, the groups concerned reinvent this celebration, recreating songs, comedies, costumes, and embroideries for the occasion. Culminating at the end of June, the festival cycle involves numerous manifestations, including public performances, and rituals around the death of an ox. It is a period of renovation during which energies are reinvigorated.

Morna is a traditional Cape Verdean musical and choreographic practice with instrumental accompaniment that incorporates voice, music, poetry and dance. Morna can be either sung or played only with instruments, primarily chordophones, including the guitar, violin, and ukulele. The lyric poetry can be improvised, with topics including love, departure, separation, reunion, and the motherland. It is now mainly performed in Cape Verdean Creole. Bearers and practitioners include instrument players, singers, poets and composers, and the practice is performed at key life events such as weddings, christenings, and family reunions.

As a living art spanning more than 2,000 years, the music system of the Byzantine chant is a significant cultural tradition that originated in the Byzantine Empire. Focused on musically enhancing the liturgical texts of the Greek Orthodox Church, it is inextricably linked to spiritual life and religious worship. This exclusively vocal music employs different rhythms to accentuate desired syllables of specific words. Byzantine chant is transmitted through Church services and is flourishing thanks to the dedication of experts and non-experts alike.

The music and dance of Dominican Bachata combines rhythmic bolero music with other Afro-Antillean genres. In general, the lyrics express heartfelt love, passion and nostalgia. Bachata is traditionally performed by a small group of musicians with the guitar as lead instrument, along with percussion accompanied by a bass instrument. The dance is passionate involving sensual hip movements by couples who perform it at all traditional celebrations in the Dominican Republic. Bachata is learnt spontaneously from a young age.

Ethiopian Epiphany is a colourful festival celebrated all over Ethiopia to commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ. The commemoration starts on the eve of the main festival, when people escort their parish church tabot, a representation of the Tables of the Law, to a pool, river or artificial reservoir. Celebrants then attend night-long prayers and hymn services, before attending the actual festival the following day, when each tabot is transported back to its church. The Ethiopian Epiphany is a religious and cultural festival whose viability is ensured through continuous practice and the pivotal contribution of the Orthodox clergy.

Alpinism is the art of climbing summits and walls in high mountains, in rocky or icy terrain. It requires physical, technical and intellectual abilities, and is characterized by a shared culture familiar with high-mountain environments, the history of climbing and associated values. Alpinism also involves knowledge of the natural environment and a strong team spirit. Most community members belong to alpine clubs, which act as a driving force for alpinist culture. All three countries are committed to fostering relationships through frequent bilateral or trilateral meetings.

The traditional skills of crafting and playing the Dotār – a two-string folk plucked musical instrument – are one of the most prominent social and cultural components of the folkloric music of the ethnic groups and communities of the Dotār regions. Performers play the Dotār on key social and cultural occasions such as weddings and ritual ceremonies, as well as in festivals. The Dotār is performed along with epic, historical, lyric and gnostic texts that are central to the ethnic history and identity of practitioners’ communities.

The making processes associated with the artisanal talavera in Mexico and ceramics in Spain are identified with two communities in each country. Despite changes over time – including the use of electric potter’s wheels – the artisanal processes closely resemble those of the 16th century. Key skills include preparing the clay, making the earthenware using a potter’s wheel or cast, decorating, preparing pigments and glazing and tending the kiln. Related knowledge and skills are mostly borne by master earthenware artisans and ceramists, who transmit them to the next generation in their workshops or families.

Although it is better known as a martial art, Pencak Silat is a long-standing tradition that encompasses numerous aspects: mental and spiritual, self-defence and aesthetics. The moves and styles of Pencak Silat reflect a strong artistic concern and require physical harmony with the accompanying music. The two terms describe a group of martial arts with many similarities, though each region has its own particularities. Pencak Silat practitioners are taught to maintain their relationship with God, human beings and nature, and trained in various techniques to defend themselves and others.

The provision of services and hospitality during the Arba’in visitation is a social practice performed across the central and southern regions of Iraq, where millions of visitors begin their pilgrimage towards the Holy City of Karbala to visit the Holy Shrine of Imam Hussein. Great numbers of people dedicate time and resources to provide pilgrims with free access to prayer halls, guest houses and overnight accommodation among other services. The practice is deeply rooted in the Iraqi and Arab tradition of hospitality and considered to be a defining element of Iraq’s cultural identity.

The harp is Ireland’s national symbol and has been played for more than 1,000 years. Its music and bell-like sound captivate all who hear it and are celebrated in Irish mythology, folklore and literature. Contemporary gut-strung harpers have safeguarded the old repertoire and ensured its continuity while responding to evolving styles. There has been a major resurgence of interest in harp playing over the past 60 years thanks to a growing appreciation of the harp’s role in Irish culture, language and identity.

Celestinian Forgiveness is a traditional celebration inspired by Pope Celestine V, who issued a historical bull as an act of partnership among local populations. Taking place in the city and province of L’Aquila, the tradition comprises a set of rituals and celebrations. The ‘Forgiveness Walk’ involves a candlelight procession along a traditional itinerary marked by the lighting of tripods in twenty-three villages. Participants walk with three main characters symbolizing hospitality, solidarity and peace. The community’s constant participation in the celebration has ensured its viability over time.

Ak-kalpak craftsmanship is a traditional Kyrgyz handicraft. The Ak-kalpak is a traditional male hat made with white felt which bears deep sacral meanings. Ak-kalpak craftsmanship encompasses a cumulative body of knowledge and skills pertaining to felting, cutting and sewing, and pattern embroidery. The Ak-kalpak’s shape resembles a snow peak, with the four sides resembling the four elements, and the edging lines symbolising life. Ak-kalpak fosters inclusivity and unites different Kyrgyz tribes and communities. Traditionally, related knowledge and skills are transmitted from mother to daughter in craftswomen communities.

: Silat is a combative art of self-defence and survival rooted in the Malay Archipelago. Traced back to the early days of the Langkasuka Kingdom, Silat has now evolved into a fine practice of physical and spiritual training associated with traditional Malay attire, musical instruments and customs. There are many styles of Silat, named after natural elements such as animals and plants from the area where they are practiced. Many practitioners have been trained, and Silat is now a popular sport for health and leisure.

Kwagh-hir is a composite, visually stimulating and culturally rich theatrical performance rooted in the storytelling tradition of the Tiv people and the practice of creative storytelling. With time, storytellers began dramatizing their stories leading to the consolidation of the practice of Kwagh-hir in its present form. The practice incorporates puppetry, masquerade, poetry, music, dance and animated narratives and expresses the realities of the Tiv people. Regular performances keep the art alive, while its skills and knowledge are transmitted through apprenticeship within the troupe.

In the practice of traditional music and dance in Setesdal, dance and music belong together. The melodies are named after the ‘gangar’ dance and the ‘stev’ songs, often performed in intervals between dancing/music-making, either solo or by two or more singers in dialogue with each other. The dance is performed by couples in a clockwise circle and the music is played on the Hardanger fiddle and the jaw harp. This practice has been transmitted continuously since the 18th century, and continues to evolve, with the regular composition of new songs and tunes.

The ‘Hatajo de Negritas’ and ‘Hatajo de Pallitas’ are two complementary traditional expressions featuring music and singing originating in the central department of Ica in Peru. Performed during Christmas celebrations in December and January they offer representations of biblical shepherds’ visit to the new-born baby Jesus and the arrival of the Wise Men. A fiddle or guitar accompanies the dancing that takes place in town squares and churches as well as in family homes featuring nativity scenes.

The Carnival of Podence is a social practice associated with the end of winter and the arrival of spring. The festivities take place over three days in village streets and houses where neighbours visit each other. During the performance, the Caretos – masked characters dressed in colourful costumes and bells – visit the homes of families and relatives in a ritual of conviviality. Participation begins during childhood and the Group of Caretos Association plays a key role in ensuring the Carnival’s continued viability.

The ‘Ie Samoa is a finely hand-woven mat fastened at the hem with two rows of green and red feathers. Traditionally woven with strippings of the pandanus plant, the final product is silk-like and coppery in colour. The production process is highly intricate and can take years. The ‘Ie Samoa is, however, more than a cultural product, its true value lies in its exchange during traditional ceremonies and rituals. Women and master weavers have now set up fine mat committees in their villages, contributing to the transmission of the art form.

Drotárstvo, wire craft and art, refers to the technique of manufacturing and using wire. The practice was developed in the 18th century when specialized craftspeople discovered the interesting properties of wire for the production of utility objects and devised a simple technique to produce and repair basic utensils without welding or soldering, a technique still used to this day. Currently, bearers and practitioners work mainly on artistic products and some practitioners come from families with a multi-generational tradition of transmitting the related skills and knowledge.

The Holy Week Processions take place in the historic town of Mendrisio on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, attracting over 10,000 spectators. During the processions, the city’s lights are turned off and the streets are lit by ‘transparencies’: translucent paintings mounted on wooden frames and lit from within. The Thursday Procession is devoted to staging the Passion and the Stations of the Cross, while the Good Friday Procession is more austere. Hundreds of men and women volunteer to organize the processions, which are attended by a large portion of the population.

The practices and craftsmanship associated with the Damascene Rose include medical, nutritional and cosmetic uses. The Damascene Rose begins to bloom in May, when the picking commences and the annual festival kicks off. Farmers and their families handpick the roses and then collect buds for tea. Village women make rose syrup, jam and pastries, and apothecaries sell the dried Damascene Rose for its numerous medicinal benefits. The festival is attended in large numbers and is a testament to the element’s unfading cultural significance for its bearers.

Nuad Thai, traditional Thai massage, is regarded as part of the art and science of traditional Thai healthcare. As a non-medicinal remedy and manual therapy, it involves bodily manipulation to help rebalance the patient’s body, energy and structure to treat illnesses believed to be caused by the obstruction of energy flow along ‘sen’, lines crisscrossing the human body. Nuad Thai has its roots in self-care in ancient Thai peasant society. The expertise of practitioners has been passed down for generations evolving into a formal system of knowledge.

Gnawa refers to a set of musical events, performances, fraternal practices and therapeutic rituals combining secular and sacred features including all-night therapeutic possession rituals in cities and communal meals offered to marabout saints in rural areas. Originally practised by groups and individuals from slavery and the slave trade dating back to the 16th century, Gnawa culture now forms part of Morocco’s multifaceted culture and identity. The number of fraternal groups and master musicians is constantly growing in Morocco’s villages and major cities and Gnawa groups hold festivals all year round.

Traditional Turkish archery – practised both on foot and on horseback – encompasses principles, rituals and social practices, the craftsmanship of traditional equipment manufacture, archery disciplines and shooting techniques that have evolved over centuries. Traditional archery equipment, generally decorated with calligraphy, ornaments and marquetry, is also a key component of the element, requiring specific skills and knowledge. Bearers and practitioners ensure the continued viability of the element by adapting it to contemporary conditions, and there has been a remarkable increase in female archers and trainees in recent years.

Traditional Turkmen carpet making art in Turkmenistan relates to the production of traditional, beautifully ornamented, hand-woven woollen Turkmen carpets and carpet products. The carpets are dense in texture and ornamented with coloured patterns pertaining to one of the five main Turkmen tribes, serving as a sign of cultural identity. The context in which the carpet weaver lives – including local flora and fauna – is reflected in the carpet design. The carpets serve both as floor coverings and wall decorations, and special carpets are also woven for specific occasions.

The tradition of Kosiv painted ceramics – dishes, ceremonial items, toys and tiles – arose in the 18th century and has a practical and artistic value. Made of local clay, the ceramics are characterized by their figurative designs, with the motifs depicting the history, life, folklore, beliefs and customs of the Hutsuls. Another characteristic feature of the ceramics is their traditional green, yellow and brown colours. Masters of the craft work in small, often family-owned workshops. The Kosiv College Department of Art Ceramics bears a special responsibility for sustaining the tradition.

The movements of the Khorazm dance, Lazgi, exemplify human creativity in reflecting the sounds and phenomena of surrounding nature, feelings of love and happiness. Centuries-old, the Lazgi dance represents real life in all its movements, informed by the social life and activities of the local communities. Two types of the dance exist: the ‘scenery’ dance, involving concrete movements, and its interpretive form, focusing on improvisation and more changeable movements. Lazgi is a key form of self-expression transmitted over the generations through the creation of new versions of performances.

Then, an essential ritual practice in the spiritual life of the ethnic groups Tày, Nùng and Thái, reflects concepts about human beings, nature and the universe. Then ceremonies describe a journey in which the Then Master controls ghost soldiers travelling from earth to heaven to present items of worship and prayers for peace, good crops, health, etc. During the practice, the Then Master sings and plays a tính lute, wearing ceremonial dress. Then is always transmitted orally while the rituals are conducted, reflecting its succession across the generations.

The Representative List seeks to enhance visibility for the traditional practices and know-how of communities without recognizing standards of excellence or exclusivity.

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