UN’s intangible cultural heritage list comes into being with 90 entries

Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity comes into being in Istanbul, Turkey

4 November 2008 – A United Nations-endorsed list of the planet’s intangible cultural heritage, ranging from folk music and shadow puppetry to ox-herding traditions and sand drawings, came into being today as part of efforts to safeguard such elements around the world.

The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was established today in Istanbul, Turkey, with the inclusion of 90 elements that had previously been proclaimed as masterpieces, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported in a news release.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said the List’s inauguration “is bringing to life” the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which was adopted by UNESCO in 2003 and has been ratified by 104 States so far.

“I am confident that with time, this List – designed to give more visibility to our living heritage – will contribute to raising awareness of its importance and instil a sense of pride and belonging to custodian communities,” Mr. Matsuura said.

Both the List and the Convention aim to protect heritage that includes oral traditions, the performing arts, social practices, craftsmanship and knowledge of nature.

The List’s inauguration took place at the start of a week-long session of the intergovernmental committee overseeing the implementation of the intangible cultural heritage Convention.

The 90 elements were proclaimed as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001, 2003 or 2005, and another 111 applications for inscriptions on the List have been sent to the intergovernmental committee for review next year.

The inaugural list covers every region of the world, and includes the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, ox-herding and oxcart traditions in Costa Rica, polyphonic singing of the Aka Pygmies of the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mexico’s indigenous festivity dedicated to the dead.

Indonesian shadow puppetry is also included, as are cross-crafting in Lithuania and Latvia, sand drawings in Vanuatu, initiatory rites in Senegal and Gambia and textile art in Peru.


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