Decisión del Comité intergubernamental: 17.COM 7.B.36

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Afghanistan has nominated Behzad's style of miniature art (No. 01851) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Miniature painting is a source of pride for Afghan people. One of its key styles is Behzad, named after the fifteenth-century artist whose techniques, representation of perspective and use of colour made him one of the most famous painters of his time. Today, Behzad's style of miniature art is transmitted through apprenticeships in private workshops and art galleries. Apprentices help maintain the workshop and, over the course of several years, work on mastering and preparing the different tools of the painter and progressively participating in the creation of finished pieces with the master before undertaking their own work. Transmission also takes place in university programmes and in public and private institutions. In a country with a high rate of illiteracy, miniature painting contributes to the transmission of foundational stories, myths, values and morals within the population.

  1. Considers that the information included in the file is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are satisfied:

R.1:   The tradition of miniature painting involves the painting of small, yet highly detailed, colourful and intricate figures and scenes which tell stories of social challenges, economic issues and myths of the region, using pencils, brushes, natural pigments and gold or silver leaves. The practice is kept alive by its practitioners, supported by some key institutions across the country. However, the file, video and photos focus strongly on the art form and its history, rather than explaining details of the current practices, as well as the techniques and skills associated with the element. The file mentions that the element is deeply rooted in Afghan history and identity, and explains that it has witnessed a revival since the late twentieth century with the creation of new workshops and centres across the country. However, it does not provide sufficient details on the social functions and cultural meanings of the element in the present-day context. Overall, the information provided focuses strongly on the art form and art pieces, but the relationships between the tangible cultural heritage and the intangible cultural heritage, including its social functions and cultural meanings, are not clearly defined in the file.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription will help bearers and practitioners to be recognized by institutions and communities. It will also prompt further support for the element through the provincial offices. At the national level, it will help to create a national network of practitioners who will be able to work together to safeguard the element. At the international level, it will enhance international cooperation with other states with similar elements. However, the file focuses on how inscription will increase the visibility and awareness of the element itself, but not of intangible cultural heritage in general. In addition, the file does not adequately explain how inscription will promote greater dialogue and respect for cultural diversity.

R.3:   Past and current safeguarding measures include exhibitions, competitions, research, training and supporting sales of artisans' work. The proposed safeguarding measures are not clearly described, and appear to be largely planned and implemented by the Ministry of Information and Culture. While the file explains that representatives of communities and practitioners attended meetings and consultations organized by the Ministry of Information and Culture, there is limited information on how the communities, groups and individuals were involved in planning and how they will be involved in implementing the proposed safeguarding measures.

R.4:   The file explains that the nomination process involved key community leaders and bearers/practitioners from the start, both directly through the work of the Ministry of Information and Culture and through its collaborations with NGOs and local associations. However, it appears that the nomination process was largely driven by cultural experts and academics, and communities were interviewed in the process. The file includes a small number of standardized letters. These letters refer to the need to identify and register the element and ‘UNESCO rules and regulations’, but do not indicate that the participants supported the nomination of the element to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Overall, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether the nomination involved the widest possible participation of communities, groups and individuals in all stages of the nomination process.

R.5:   The element was included in the Afghanistan Intangible Cultural Heritage National Inventory List on 11 February 2021, and the inventory is maintained by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office, People's Culture Directorate, Ministry of Information and Culture. However, the inventorying process appears to be led by cultural experts and there is a lack of information regarding how the community is involved. The frequency with which the inventory is updated is also not specified in the file.

  1. Decides to refer the nomination of Behzad's style of miniature art to the submitting State Party and invites it to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;
  2. Encourages the State Party, in future nominations, to focus on descriptions and information concerning intangible cultural heritage and its social functions and cultural meanings, and to place less emphasis on the art forms, products or tangible items;
  3. Further encourages the State Party, when submitting nomination files in the future, to avoid standardized letters of consent.