First, let’s talk a bit what is Intangible Cultural Heritage?
The term ‘cultural heritage’ has changed content considerably in recent decades, partially owing to the instruments developed by UNESCO. Cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.
While fragile, intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization. An understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities helps with intercultural dialogue, and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life.
The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. The social and economic value of this transmission of knowledge is relevant for minority groups and for mainstream social groups within a State, and is as important for developing States as for developed ones.
Intangible cultural heritage is:
- Traditional, contemporary and living at the same time: intangible cultural heritage does not only represent inherited traditions from the past but also contemporary rural and urban practices in which diverse cultural groups take part;
- Inclusive: we may share expressions of intangible cultural heritage that are similar to those practised by others. Whether they are from the neighbouring village, from a city on the opposite side of the world, or have been adapted by peoples who have migrated and settled in a different region, they all are intangible cultural heritage: they have been passed from one generation to another, have evolved in response to their environments and they contribute to giving us a sense of identity and continuity, providing a link from our past, through the present, and into our future. Intangible cultural heritage does not give rise to questions of whether or not certain practices are specific to a culture. It contributes to social cohesion, encouraging a sense of identity and responsibility which helps individuals to feel part of one or different communities and to feel part of society at large;
- Representative: intangible cultural heritage is not merely valued as a cultural good, on a comparative basis, for its exclusivity or its exceptional value. It thrives on its basis in communities and depends on those whose knowledge of traditions, skills and customs are passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation, or to other communities;
- Community-based: intangible cultural heritage can only be heritage when it is recognized as such by the communities, groups or individuals that create, maintain and transmit it – without their recognition, nobody else can decide for them that a given expression or practice is their heritage.
We will present you, our reader, some of interesting examples of Intangible Cultural Heritage from different world corners
Art of miniature
This traditional practice from Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey and Uzbekistan was inscribed in 2020 (15.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The miniature is a type of two-dimensional artwork that involves the design and creation of small paintings on books, papier-mâché, rugs, textiles, walls, ceramics and other items using raw materials such as gold, silver and various organic substances. Historically, the miniature was exemplified by book painting in which the text was supported visually, but the element has evolved and can also be observed in architecture and as an adornment in public spaces. The patterns of the miniature represent beliefs, worldviews and lifestyles in a pictorial fashion and also gained a new character through the Islamic influence. While there are stylistic differences between them, the art of miniature as practised by the submitting States Parties shares crucial features. In all cases, it is a traditional craft typically transmitted through mentor-apprentice relationships (non-formal education) and considered as an integral part of each society’s social and cultural identity. The miniature displays a specific type of perspective in which the size of the figures changes according to their importance – a key difference from realistic and naturalistic styles. Though it has existed for centuries, it continues to develop and thus strengthens the bonds between past and present. Traditional painting principles and techniques are preserved, but artists also bring individual creativity into the process.
As a living art that has existed for more than 2000 years, the Byzantine chant is a significant cultural tradition and comprehensive music system forming part of the common musical traditions that developed in the Byzantine Empire. Highlighting and musically enhancing the liturgical texts of the Greek Orthodox Church, it is inextricably linked with spiritual life and religious worship. This vocal art is mainly focused on rendering the ecclesiastical text; arguably, the chant exists because of the word (‘logos’), since every aspect of the tradition serves to spread the sacred message. Passed on aurally across the generations, its main characteristics have remained over the centuries: it is exclusively vocal music; it is essentially monophonic; the chants are codified into an eight-mode or eight-tone system; and the chant employs different styles of rhythm to accentuate the desired syllables of specific words. Though the Psaltic Art has always been linked to the male voice, women chanters are common in nunneries and participate in parishes to some extent. In addition to its transmission in church, the Byzantine chant is flourishing due to the dedication of experts and non-experts alike – including musicians, choir members, composers, musicologists and scholars – who contribute to its study, performance and dissemination.
Valencia Fallas festivity
The main feature of the Fallas Festivity, a tradition of communities in Valencia and its diaspora celebrating the coming of spring, is the giant falla. The falla is a monument made up of ninots (caricature pieces) created by local artists and craftspeople that provides a commentary on current social issues. Erected in the town square, the falla is set alight at the end of the festivity, which runs from March 14 to 19, to symbolize the coming of spring, purification and a rejuvenation of community social activity. In the meantime, marching bands parade the streets, outdoor meals are held and fireworks staged. Each year, a Fallas Queen is elected to promote the festivity throughout the year encouraging locals and visitors to take part. Know-how associated with the practice is transmitted within families, particularly those involved in the construction of the ninots who belong to different guilds among participating communities. The Fallas Festivity provides an opportunity for collective creativity and the safeguarding of traditional arts and crafts. It is also a source of community pride, contributor to cultural identity and enhances social cohesion. In the past, the festivity was also a way of preserving the Valencian language when it was prohibited.
There are incredible numbers of Intangible Cultural Heritage to explore, you can enjoy it clicking here.
What is your favorite Intangible Cultural Heritage practice? Comment it!