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Despite COVID-19 pandemic, intangible cultural heritage committee meets online

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Audrey Azoulay


Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, the States Parties to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage have decided to hold the meeting of their Intergovernmental Committee from December 14 to 19, 2020 online.

The opening ceremony of the session will hold in Kingston, Jamaica, on December 15, with the participation of Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO and Olivia Grange, Chairperson of the Committee and Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport of Jamaica, who will then lead the online debates for six days.

A digital platform created by UNESCO shows the negative impact of the health crisis on living heritage in more than 70 countries, notably in Small Island developing states, despite its fundamental role in times of physical distancing and lockdowns.

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The committee received 40 requests for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Committee members will also have to decide on four nominations for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. In addition, four projects are proposed for inclusion in the Register of Good Practices for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, of which there are 22 to date. The Committee will also examine two requests for international assistance submitted by Malawi and the Central African Republic, respectively for an intangible heritage safeguarding project and a capacity-building project.

UNESCO will launch the innovative graphic tool “Dive into Intangible Cultural Heritage”, which highlights the contribution of living heritage to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003) promotes support for cultural practices inherited from our ancestors and transmitted to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, or the knowledge and skills necessary for traditional craftsmanship. Composed of representatives of 24 States Parties to the Convention, the Intergovernmental Committee meets once a year to monitor the implementation of this legal instrument, which has been ratified by 180 States.

The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding identifies elements of living heritage whose survival is under threat. Consisting to date of 64 inscribed elements, it enables States Parties to the Convention to mobilise international cooperation and assistance to support the transmission of these cultural practices in agreement with the communities concerned.

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The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity has 463 inscribed elements. It aims to give greater visibility to cultural practices and skills carried by communities.

Current nominations to the Urgent Safeguarding List of Intangible Cultural Heritage this yearinclude:
Colombia — Traditional knowledge and techniques associated with Pasto Varnish mopa-mopa of Putumayo and Nariño
Egypt — Handmade weaving in Upper Egypt (Sa’eed)
Georgia — Wheat culture in Georgia, culture of wheat endemic species and landraces cultivation and utilisation in Georgia.

Namibia — Aixan/Gana/Ob#ANS TSI //Khasigu, ancestral musical sound knowledge and skills
Representative List
Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia — Knowledge, know-how and practices pertaining to the production and consumption of couscous
Argentina – Chamamé
Azerbaijan — Nar Bayrami, traditional pomegranate festivity and culture
Azerbaijan, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Turkey, Uzbekistan — Art of miniature
Bangladesh — Traditional art of nakshi kantha embroidery
Bosnia and Herzegovina — Grass mowing competition custom in Kupres
Cambodia — Kun Lbokator
China – Taijiquan
China; Malaysia — Ong Chun/Wangchuan/Wangkang ceremony, rituals and related practices for maintaining the sustainable connection between man and the ocean
Croatia — Festivity of Saint Tryphon and the Kolo (chain dance) of Saint Tryphon, traditions of Croats from the Bay of Kotor who live in the Republic of Croatia
Czechia — Handmade production of Christmas tree decorations from blown glass beads
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — Custom of Korean costume in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Finland — Sauna culture in Finland
France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy — Musical art of horn players, an instrumental technique linked to singing, breath control, vibrato, resonance of place and conviviality
Hungary — Pottery making tradition in Hungary
Indonesia, Malaysia — Pantun
Iran (Islamic Republic of), Armenia — Pilgrimage to the St. Thaddeus Apostle Monastery
Iran (Islamic Republic of), Syrian Arab Republic — Crafting and playing the Oud
Iran (Islamic Republic of); Tajikistan — Ceremony of Mehrgan
Italy, France –The art of glass beads
Japan — Traditional skills, techniques and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan
Kazakhstan — Orteke, Kazakh traditional puppet-musical performing art
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey — Traditional intelligence and strategy game: Togyzqumalaq, Toguz Korgool, Mangala/Göçürme
Malawi, Zimbabwe — Art of crafting and playing Mbira/Sansi, the finger-plucking traditional musical instrument in Malawi and Zimbabwe
Malta — Il-Ftira, culinary art and culture of flattened sourdough bread in Malta
Oman — Khanjar, knowledge of cultural and social practices
Paraguay — Practices and traditional knowledge of Terere in the culture of Pohã Ñana, Guaraní ancestral drink in Paraguay
Poland, Belarus –- Tree beekeeping culture
Republic of Korea — Yeondeunghoe, lantern lighting festival in the Republic of Korea
Romania — Traditional music band from Romania
Saudi Arabia –Knowledge and practices related to cultivating Khawlani coffee beans
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait — Traditional weaving of Al Sadu
Serbia — Zlakusa pottery making, hand-wheel pottery making in the village of Zlakusa
Singapore — Hawker culture in Singapore, community dining and culinary practices in a multicultural urban context
Spain –Wine Horses
Switzerland; France – Craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics
Tunisia — Charfia fishing in the Kerkennah Islands
United Arab Emirates — Al Aflaj, traditional irrigation network system in the UAE, oral traditions, knowledge and skills of construction, maintenance and equitable water distribution
United Arab Emirates, Oman — Camel racing, a social practice and a festive heritage associated with camels
Zambia — Budima dance
Nominations to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices
Albania — National Folk Festival of Gjirokastra (NFFoGj), 50 years best practice in safeguarding Albanian intangible heritage
France — The Martinique yole, from construction to sailing practices, a model for heritage safeguarding
Germany, Austria, France, Norway, Switzerland — Craft techniques and customary practices of cathedral workshops, or Bauhütten, in Europe, know-how, transmission, development of knowledge and innovation
Greece — Polyphonic caravan, researching, safeguarding and promoting the Epirus polyphonic song

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