Decisión del Comité intergubernamental: 17.COM 7.B.30

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Tunisia has nominated Harissa, knowledge, skills and culinary and social practices (No. 01710) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Harissa, a seasoning made with chilli pepper paste, is an integral part of domestic provisions and the daily culinary and food traditions of Tunisian society. It is usually prepared by women in a convivial and festive family or neighbourhood setting. It is prepared by drying the chilli peppers in the sun, and splitting the peppers, removing the stalks and deseeding. The chilli peppers are then washed, ground and seasoned with salt, garlic and coriander using a pestle and mortar or a manual meat mincer. The harissa is stored in glass or pottery for subsequent use. The cultivation of chilli peppers follows an agrarian calendar that prohibits sowing during certain periods, which are considered unlucky. Chillies are hung on looms and replicas are made from coral to avoid bad luck. The knowledge and skills related to chilli pepper growing are passed on within communities of farmers or through agronomy schools and institutes.

  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 comprises knowledge, skills and culinary and social practices associated with the production and consumption of harissa. Harissa is used as an ingredient, a condiment, or an appetiser and it is an integral part of domestic provisions and the daily culinary and food traditions of Tunisian society. All Tunisian households can be considered consumers of harissa. There are various roles associated with the element, including farmers, traders, craftspeople, families and households and associations, among others. Within families, skills are transmitted informally by mothers, grandmothers or neighbours, by means of observation during the preparation of harissa every year. The transmission of harissa skills also takes place formally in hotels, restaurant schools and institutes through specialized courses in hotel businesses, restaurant schools and other educational institutes. Harissa is exchanged between families, relatives, neighbours and friends. It is used daily and during important life events, as well as in numerous culinary traditions, such as those related to the holy month of Ramadan. The element strengthens family and community ties, contributing to social cohesion. It has strong symbolic significance, denoting vitality, activity and warmth.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription will trigger a ripple effect, making intangible cultural heritage as a whole more visible. At the national level, inscription can be a unifying cultural feature that will bring people together and provide an opportunity to highlight other categories of intangible cultural heritage. At the international level, inscription will provide an opportunity for communities, groups and individuals around the world to think of traditional food as intangible cultural heritage. Inscription will also reaffirm cultural diversity by raising public interest in the importance of the characteristics and differences within intangible cultural heritage.

R.4:   The idea to nominate the element was raised by bearers, practitioners, professionals and associations, who requested the government's assistance and support in 2016 to begin the nomination effort. Thereafter, a working team was established, which was made up of representatives, including female and male practitioners and bearers, associations, professionals, the relevant government bodies, researchers, experts and the media. People of all genders and ages actively took part in the meetings as part of the nomination process. In addition to their participation in the discussions, they provided the necessary information and contributed to the collection of data connected with the practice of the element in certain communities. During the later stages of the nomination, the project was presented to the communities in order to correct any shortcomings and revise some of the data. Various letters of consent from communities, associations, federations, academies, cooperatives and other organizations were provided in the nomination file.

R.5:   The element was included in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in October 2016. The inventory is maintained by the National Heritage Institute, Department of Inventory and Study of Ethnographic Properties and Contemporary Arts. The element was identified and defined by the practitioners and bearers themselves using a participatory approach. The inventory is updated every three years. The file explains that the inventory is updated when new information is passed on directly by the communities, or collected in the field by a team of researchers in charge of intangible cultural heritage at the National Heritage Institute. Updates entail the participation of representatives of the practitioners and bearers concerned.

  1. Further considers that, from the information included in the file and the information provided by the submitting State Party through the dialogue process, the nomination satisfies the following criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.3:   The file explains that practitioners and bearers, and organized associations worked to safeguard the element through multiple initiatives ranging from awareness-raising to transmission, documentation, promotion and development. These include the creation of the Harissa and Chili Pepper Festival, an annual event involving craftspeople, professionals and amateurs, as well as workshops and training courses by local associations such the Ilâf association in Tataouine. The proposed safeguarding measures are categorised into the areas of 1) Education & Transmission; 2) Awareness Raising; 3) Research & documentation; 4) Administrative & Legal measures; and 5) Promotion & Enhancement. Through meetings and dialogues, the bearers expressed their concerns and submitted their proposals. The proposed measures were drafted by the committee responsible for examining the nomination form, before being presented to the public at a meeting held on 9 January 2020, and through the network of partner associations involved in the nomination. The State Party has also set up a monitoring committee to monitor the application of the safeguarding measures and to avoid any unintended consequences as a result of the inscription.

  1. Decides to inscribe Harissa, knowledge, skills and culinary and social practices on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Invites the State Party to take appropriate measures to ensure that the application of a standard procedure does not restrict or stifle human creativity and to avoid over-commercialization.