15 cultural practices join UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Heritage

© UNESCO

Bogota, 12 December-On Thursday morning, the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage meeting in the Colombian capital inscribed 15 more elements to the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Inscriptions are scheduled to continue in the afternoon.

Traditions of Pencak Silat, Indonesia

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.

Provision of services and hospitality during the Arba’in visitation, Iraq

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.

Irish harping, Ireland

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 celebration, Italy

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, traditional knowledge and skills in making and wearing Kyrgyz men’s headwear, Kyrgyzstan

Ak-kalpak craftsmanship is a traditional Kyrgyz handicraft. The Ak-kalpak is a traditional male hat made of 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 symbolizing 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, Malaysia

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 theatrical performance, Nigeria

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.

Practice of traditional music and dance in Setesdal, playing, dancing and singing (stev/stevjing), Norway

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 and 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.

‘Hatajo de Negritos’ and ‘Hatajo de Pallitas’ from the Peruvian south-central coastline, Peru

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.

Winter festivities, Carnival of Podence, Portugal

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 wearing 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.

‘Ie Samoa, fine mat and its cultural value, Samoa

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, Slovakia

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.

Holy Week processions in Mendrisio, Switzerland

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.

Practices and craftsmanship associated with the Damascene rose in Al-Mrah, Syrian Arab Republic

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, Thailand

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.

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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