Each year a special UNESCO committee meets to evaluate cultural norms from around the world that are put forward for consideration for a list like no other – The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The list is made up of intangible heritage elements that demonstrate the diversity of that particular heritage raises awareness about its importance. Many of these cultural element are in urgent need of safeguarding because they’re at risk of disappearing forever, despite the efforts of the community, group, individual or State to preserve them. In December 2017, 12 more heritage elements where added:
Kazakhstan – Kazakh traditional Assyk games
Kazakh Traditional Assyk Games are an ancient tradition in Kazakhstan; each player has their own set of Assyks, traditionally made out of a sheep bone, and a ‘Saka’ dyed in bright colours. The community of practitioners mainly comprises children aged between 4 and 18, but young people and adults are also involved. The game is a good model for positive collaboration, social inclusiveness and a sense of friendship, and is primarily transmitted through observation from older boys to younger ones.
Portugal – Craftmanship of Estremoz clay figures
The Craftmanship of Estremoz Clay Figures dates back to the 17th century and involves a process lasting several days. The clay figures are dressed in regional attires of Alentejo or religious clothing and follow specific themes; the very characteristic aesthetic features of the figures make them immediately identifiable, and the craft is strongly attached to the region. Artisans ensure the viability and recognition of their craft through non-formal workshops and pedagogical initiatives, as well as through local, national and international fairs.
Germany – Organ craftsmanship and music
Organ craftsmanship and music has shaped Germany’s musical and instrument-making landscape for centuries, and there are a diverse number of traditions around constructing and playing the organ. The highly specialized knowledge and skills of organ makers are significant markers of group identity and organ music constitutes a universal language that fosters interreligious understanding. Knowledge and skills related to the element are transmitted through a direct teacher-pupil experience as well as in vocational schools, universities, and organ construction workshops.
Greece – Rebetiko
Rebetiko is a musical and cultural expression directly linked to song and dance that initially spread among urban working-class populations. Rebetiko songs are now a standardized repertoire in social occasions, containing invaluable references to the customs and traditions of a particular way of life. Rebetiko is transmitted orally, as well as by the media and in music schools, conservatories and universities, and musicians and enthusiasts continue to play a key role in keeping the practice alive.
India – Kumbh Mela
Kumbh Mela, the festival of the sacred Pitcher, is a peaceful congregation of pilgrims during which participants bathe or take a dip in a sacred river. The congregation includes ascetics, saints, sadhus, aspirants-kalpavasis and visitors. The tradition plays a central spiritual role in the country, encapsulating a diverse range of cultural customs. Knowledge and skills relating to Kumbh Mela are mainly imparted through the teacher-student relationship, but transmission and safeguarding are also ensured through oral traditions and religious and historical texts.
Indonesia – Pinisi, art of boatbuilding in South Sulawesi
Pinisi, or the Art of Boatbuilding in South Sulawesi, refers to the famed ‘Sulawesi schooner’ and represents the epitome of the Archipelago’s indigenous sailing craft. Today, boatbuilding centres are located at Tana Beru, Bira and Batu Licin, where shipbuilding and sailing are central to the community’s social, economic and cultural fabric. Knowledge and skills are transmitted from generation to generation both within and outside of the family circle, and local shipwrights are engaged in active marketing initiatives to safeguard the practice.
Iran (Islamic Republic of) – Chogān, a horse-riding game accompanied by music and storytelling
Chogān is a horse-riding game traditionally played in royal courts and urban fields and accompanied by music and storytelling. In Chogān, two rider teams compete and the aim is to pass the ball through the opposing team’s goal post using a wooden stick. Chogān has a strong connection to the identity and history of its bearers and practitioners. It is transmitted informally within the family sphere, as well as by dedicated associations through training and support for local masters.
Iran (Islamic Republic of); Azerbaijan – Kamantcheh, The art of crafting and playing with a bowed string musical instrument
The art of crafting and playing Kamantcheh/Kamancha (‘little bow’), a bowed string instrument, has existed for over 1,000 years. In the Islamic Republic of Iran and Azerbaijan, it is a major element of classical and folkloric music, and performances occupy a central place in many gatherings. Kamantcheh is both a key source of earning a living and a strong part of the communities’ living heritage. Knowledge relating to the art of crafting and playing Kamantcheh is transmitted both within families and in musical institutions.
Ireland – Uilleann piping
Uilleann Piping is a musical practice in which a particular type of bagpipe (known as ‘uilleann’, ‘Irish’ or ‘union’ pipes) is used to play traditional music. Bearers and practitioners include participants of all ages, dispersed throughout the world. Uilleann Piping offers an important way of socializing, providing a sense of rootedness and connection to the past. Knowledge and skills are transmitted using both long-established and modern practices, and the practice is primarily safeguarded through the efforts of the group Na Piorabairi Uilleann.
Italy – Art of Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’
The art of the Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’ is a culinary practice consisting of four different phases relating to the preparation of the dough and its baking in a wood-fired oven. The practice originates in Naples, where around 3,000 Pizzaiuoli now live and perform, and plays a key role in fostering social gatherings and intergenerational exchange. Knowledge and skills related to the element are primarily transmitted in the ‘bottega’ of the Pizzaiuolo, where young apprentices can observe their master at work.
Kyrgyzstan – Kok boru, traditional horse game
Kok boru, a horse game, is a synthesis of traditional practices, performances and the game. The game is played by two teams on horseback, who compete by trying to score as many ‘ulaks’ (a mould in modern-day games) into their opponents’ goal as possible. The element is an expression of the cultural and historic tradition of its practitioners and unites communities regardless of social status. Related knowledge and skills are primarily transmitted through demonstration, as well as during festive and social events.
Malawi – Nsima, culinary tradition of Malawi
Nsima, the Culinary Tradition of Malawi, is a compound name for the culinary and dietary tradition of Malawians as well as a single component of this tradition, a form of thick porridge prepared with maize flour. Nsima is prepared through an elaborate process requiring specific knowledge, and eating it is a communal tradition in families. Communities safeguard the element through continued practice, publications, festivals and revitalization activities, and knowledge is transmitted both informally and through on-the-job training and education.