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New elements of the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind in photographs

14.01.2024 | 19:36 |
 New elements of the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind in photographs

Cultural heritage is not limited to monuments and collections of objects. The UNESCO list includes the "intangible" — traditions or performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge about nature and the universe, crafts. Despite its fragility, intangible cultural heritage is essential to maintain cultural diversity in an increasingly globalized environment. Understanding the intangible cultural heritage of different communities helps to conduct intercultural dialogue and encourages mutual respect for other lifestyles. The importance of intangible cultural heritage lies not in the cultural manifestation itself, but in the wealth of knowledge and skills transmitted through it from one generation to another.

At the session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage at the end of 2023, 55 new elements were included in the list of "living heritage", including the art of Ahal-Teke horse breeding and traditions of decorating horses in Turkmenistan.

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There are already more than 600 items in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind. Among them are the Rotterdam Summer Carnival (the Netherlands), the skills of making satin and adras fabrics (Tajikistan), the traditional group dance "dabke" (Palestine), polonaise (Poland), the traditions of blacksmithing in Gyumri (Armenia), bolero (Cuba, Mexico), iftar, or an evening meal for Muslims during Ramadan (Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Uzbekistan), rituals related to the wearing of a female headdress "elechek" (Kyrgyzstan), the manufacture of traditional ceramic products (Uzbekistan), etc.

Let's look at some of the "elements" that joined the list in 2023.

Rickshaws and rickshaw painting in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Traditionally made by hand by a small group of craftsmen, the rickshaw is painted with bright floral patterns, natural images, birds and animals, creative images of historical events, fables, national heroes, movie stars and text. Rickshaw artists work on request and usually pass on knowledge and skills to their children and close relatives. Seen as a vital part of Dhaka’s cultural tradition and a dynamic form of urban folk art, it gives residents a sense of shared identity and continuity.

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Making a Sodai straw garden in Lithuania

Sodai Straw gardens are hanging ornaments made from grain stalks. This practice involves processing straw and creating geometric structures of different sizes. Then the structures are decorated with details symbolizing fertility and prosperity. It is believed that sodai gardens reflect the patterns of the universe and are associated with well-being and spirituality. They are hung over the cradles of babies, at weddings, family tables, at Easter and Christmas to wish happiness to newborns, fertility to newlyweds or harmony in the family.

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Traditional crafts and the art of Al-Mudhif construction in Iraq

Al-Mudhif is a large arched building built of reeds and papyrus that grow naturally in the swamps of southern Iraq. The building serves as a gathering place where community members can share information, resolve conflicts, share experiences, tell stories, and practice cultural events and social rituals such as weddings, circumcisions, religious ceremonies, and national holidays. Al-Mudhif is also a place for the transfer of traditional knowledge, values, craft skills, norms and customs to children and youth.


Seasonal cattle driving in Albania, Andorra, Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Spain

Herding refers to the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between geographical or climatic regions. Every year in spring and autumn, herders organize the movement of thousands of animals along traditional pastoral trails. They travel on foot or horseback, leading their dogs, and sometimes accompanied by their families. The traditional practice of animal husbandry is based on a deep knowledge of the environment. This entails social practices and rituals related to the care of animals, their breeding, training and management of natural resources. In this way, animal husbandry contributes to social integration, strengthening cultural identity and ties between families, communities and territories, while countering the effects of depopulation in rural areas.


Dabke, a traditional dance in Palestine

Dabke is a popular group dance in Palestine accompanied by traditional wind instruments and popular singing. It is a social activity that takes place in several regions during festivals, holidays and events such as weddings and proms. The dabke is performed by eleven dancers regardless of gender. The movements include jumping and kicking the ground. Dabke and related types of decorative and applied arts are transmitted informally through individual training and trainings.


Polonaise, traditional dance, Poland

Polonaise is a fun Polish group dance that can be played even for several hundred couples walking in procession along the trajectory proposed by the first couple. During the dance, couples perform various figures, for example, raise their joined hands, forming bridges over which other participants can walk. This practice is usually passed on to families, educational institutions, dance groups, and local communities. The polonaise, a form of joint celebration, celebrates important moments in the life of the family and society and symbolizes cooperation, reconciliation and equality.


The tradition of blacksmithing in Gyumri, Armenia

Blacksmithing, the creation and repair of iron objects, has played a central role in the city of Gyumri, the local identity and cultural features of Armenia for centuries. Although this practice almost disappeared in Armenia in the mid-twentieth century, it has persisted in Gyumri, where residents continue to preserve existing items such as window grilles, fences, gates, doors, candlesticks and chandeliers made by old craftsmen, and forge and use iron products in everyday life. The current blacksmiths, and some of them are masters in the fifth or sixth generation, play an active role in preserving and passing on the traditions of urban blacksmithing.


The Mahadra element, a communal system for the transmission of traditional knowledge and oral expressions in Mauritania

Mahadra, sometimes called the "University of the desert", is a social structure for education and socialization in which traditional knowledge is transmitted mainly through listening and memorization. Topics covered include language and traditional literature, religious sciences and Sufism. Students also acquire knowledge about the universe and nature, including rain, desert, medicinal plants, animal tracks, and the use of stars for navigation. Rooted in Moorish society and based on oral communication, Mahadra is inextricably linked to the transmission of Moorish poetry and narratives, providing a sense of continuity, belonging and shared cultural identity.


Sona, drawings in the sand, Angola

Sona refers to drawings and geometric shapes drawn on sand. Practiced by the African Lunda Kokwe people and neighboring peoples in eastern Angola, it is a form of expression whose purpose is to convey beliefs, thoughts and emotions, as well as the relationship between people and nature. Figures and drawings are considered as a means of transmitting stories, knowledge and collective memory to new generations. In recent decades, educational institutions have begun using Sona to teach and expand knowledge in mathematics, ethnomathematics, and anthropology.


The art of "illumination" in Azerbaijan, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan

Tejip (Lighting) is a centuries—old decorative art practiced on the pages of manuscripts, calligraphic texts and miniatures. The main component is gold leaf or gold paint, which requires certain knowledge and techniques. The colors, patterns, and motifs used have symbolic significance, and religious texts, literary and historical manuscripts, marriage documents, and even commercial contracts are often decorated with illumination. Today, traditional and modern interpretations of this element can be seen in manuscripts, miniatures, calligraphy and individual works of art.


Xidho in Djibouti

Xidho is a dish that a mother gives to her son—in-law in honor of the first week of her daughter's wedding. It is a container carved from the trunk of a tree, in which small pieces of dried dromedary meat are stored, fried in butter and canned in ghee. The container is placed in a basket, wrapped in aluminum foil and decorated with leather and shells. Then the composition is covered with a cloth and placed in a bag made of traditional fabrics depicting women's clothing. The ritual of making xidho, which is an integral part of the wedding ceremony in Djibouti and the subject of riddles and poetry, is passed informally in families, and girls watch as it is prepared. Xidho symbolizes commitment to the honor of the bride and her family.


Al-Manouche, Lebanon's iconic culinary practice

Al-Manouche, a flatbread, is a typical Lebanese breakfast that is prepared at home and in specialized bakeries. The dough is made with finger tips with grooves and covered with a mixture of thyme, sumac, toasted sesame seeds, salt and olive oil. After cooking, you can add a second side dish, for example, soft cheese (labneh), tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and mint leaves. When preparing the dough, practitioners pray for it to rise: Muslims recite the beginning of Fatiha, and Christians recite several prayers and cross themselves before giving the dough a rest. The techniques of cooking Manouche and its fillings are usually passed on from parents to children. The aroma of al Manouche is a strong identifying factor that resembles family morning gatherings or key moments of social interaction.


Elechek, Kyrgyz women's headdress: traditional knowledge and rituals of Kyrgyzstan.

The ritual of wrapping the cards begins with burning juniper to cleanse the physical and spiritual space. The Elechek is a traditional female headdress consisting of a cap and a very long piece of white cloth wrapped around the head like a turban and decorated with embroidery, ribbons and ornaments. This practice is an integral part of the traditional wedding ceremony in Kyrgyzstan. The rite of passage, the ritual of wrapping the bride's first elechka, takes place at her family's house before her departure with the groom. A married woman can wear a scarf on important occasions, changing its style accordingly. Knowledge and skills are usually passed on during ceremonies from older women to young ones.


Aklan Pinya Hand Weaving in the Philippines

A source of pride and a vivid sign of pinya identity is a traditional textile made from pineapple leaf fibers and woven on a hand loom in the Philippines. Farmers harvest the leaves of pinya bisaya, a special type of pineapple, and extract the fibers by hand. The knowledge and skills of hand-weaving pinya are mainly passed on in the family. Children grow up watching the older family members grow pinya bisaya and weave pinya, and eventually learn this craft under their guidance. Pinya is a means of innovation and creativity, as craftsmen are constantly developing new designs and patterns while preserving the old ones.


Traditional irrigation: knowledge, technology and organization in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland.

Traditional irrigation uses gravity and handmade structures such as canals and ditches to distribute water from springs, streams and glaciers to fields. Practitioners choose certain days and periods for manual drainage, and the beginning or end of the watering season is often accompanied by public meetings and celebrations. Traditional irrigation requires a deep understanding of the natural landscape, water flow, and weather conditions. The practice is tied to a certain vocabulary and necessary knowledge (for example, understanding the influence of the lunar cycle on the flow of water and skills related to working with wood). This practice is usually passed on to the younger generation informally through supervision and training by experienced members.


Opera singing practice in Italy

Italian opera singing is a physiologically controlled way of singing that increases the carrying power of the voice in acoustic spaces such as auditoriums, amphitheatres, arenas and churches. The performance is associated with specific facial expressions and gestures and includes a combination of music, drama, acting and staging. Singers are identified by vocal range and coloration and are divided into several registers (tenor, baritone, bass, soprano, mezzo-soprano and alto). Knowledge and skills related to Italian opera singing are transmitted orally between the maestro and the student through vocal exercises and gradual familiarization with various musical repertoires and styles.


Bolero: Identity, emotions and poetry have turned into a song in Mexico and Cuba

Bolero is an integral part of Latin American sentimental song with a strong lyrical character, deeply rooted in Cuba and Mexico. It is a cultural blend combining the language of European poetry with the African rhythms of enslaved peoples and the feelings of the indigenous peoples of America. The lyrics of “Bolero” refer to everyday life, and the songs are performed in various places: from home to public places and large concert halls, as well as at festivals and in the form of serenades. This practice is usually passed down in families through oral traditions and imitation. As a reliable cultural symbol for the broad strata of Cuban and Mexican society, especially in urban areas, it has been a means of expressing emotions and feelings for more than a century.


The wellness culture of Jamu in Indonesia

Jamu is a form of herbal medicine practiced in Indonesia since the eighth century. It is based on the belief in the cure of “hot” diseases with cold medicines, and colds with hot medicines, while a healthy state is a balance between hot and cold elements in the body. The colors and shapes of plants are also related to the colors and shapes of the organs whose health they promote. Most Jamu producers are adult women who grow medicinal herbs and think over recipes taking into account the age, lifestyle and health problems of each client.

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Traditional knowledge, methods and practices of olive cultivation in Turkey

In Turkey, olive cultivation involves grafting, pruning and fertilizing wild olive trees called delis, as well as harvesting and processing olives. The methods used are based on traditional knowledge and practices related to nature, such as ideal soil, climate and fertilizer characteristics. Olive trees are grafted and harvested according to the national calendar, and several rituals, festivals and social practices (dances, contests and feasts) mark the beginning and end of the harvest season. For example, villagers gather together to harvest the first olives of the season, and some olives are intentionally left in groves so that the poor can harvest them.


Preserving the legacy of foster families in the merciful city of Gil: a community-based guardianship model in Belgium

The Belgian town of Gil is known for its tradition of accepting people with mental disorders in foster homes. As a form of psychiatric care, community-based practice encourages the social participation of mentally vulnerable people while destigmatizing mental illness. Over time, this practice has evolved into a scientific and medical program in which laws and regulations define the conditions, duties and rights of foster families, guests and the State Psychiatric Center. The program emphasizes the complementarity of different approaches to healthcare, creating a friendly ecosystem in which cultural and medical practices and medical institutions merge. It is a cost-effective mental health service that ensures a healthy lifestyle and promotes the well-being of people of all ages.



Photo: Mass media

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