6 December 2023Culture and Education

The UNESCO committee that protects so called Intangible Cultural Heritage met in Botswana this week to add new entries to the UN culture agency’s list of world treasures, some of which must be “urgently” safeguarded.

Convened in the town of Kasane, the Intergovernmental Committee is considering new entries to UNESCO’s Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage and on Tuesday night they unveiled dozens of different entries which have made the cut already, ranging from glass blowing to poncho weaving.

The session in Botswana – the latest annual gathering of the committee – plays a crucial role in maintaining cultural diversity amid the challenges of globalization. Being inscribed from the wider list of numerous nominations, comes with the promise of international assistance and support.

Keeping traditions alive

Traditions and crafts that have already got the green light this year – 46 of them so far – are, as ever, wide ranging.

Some – such as Hiragasy, a performing art of the Central Highlands of Madagascar, Jamu wellness culture in Indonesia, Polonaise, traditional Polish dance and the practice of opera singing in Italy – are specific to a particular country.

But others are representative of the heritage of a whole region and are submitted by a group of countries.

For example, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland combined to recommend traditional irrigation, developed over centuries of custom.

Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen meanwhile, presented their entry of arts, skills and practices associated with engraving on metals for consideration.

Independent of the type of submission, all of the entries are of exceptional cultural value for the whole of humanity.

Extra support

Six of those traditions under consideration, with poncho weaving traditon in Paraguay, Ingoma Ya Mapiko celebratory dance in Mozambique and traditional Syrian glassblowing among them, are added to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

The Committee meets annually to evaluate nominations proposed by States Parties to the 2003 Convention.

Representative and community-based, this heritage thrives on the active involvement of communities, groups, or individuals who create, maintain, and transmit cultural practices.

Reshaping cultural heritage

In recent decades, UNESCO has played a pivotal role in reshaping the concept of cultural heritage. Beyond monuments and artifacts, the term now encompasses traditions, oral expressions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, and the knowledge and skills involved in traditional crafts.

Go to UNESCO’s website to learn more about intangible heritage by exploring close to 500 elements inscribed on its Lists of the 2003 Convention through the agency’s interactive multimedia portal.