Twenty-eight masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity proclaimedA thousand year old Chinese musical idiom that is mastered by a mere 50 people, the know-how of itinerant doctors in South America who are familiar with the properties of almost 1,000 plant species, a communication system among different language communities in Vanuatu using finger drawings in sand, these are but three of the 28 cultural expressions proclaimed by UNESCO today as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura today made the proclamations in a ceremony that was held in Paris, at UNESCO Headquarters, in the presence of members of the Jury and its President, Juan Goytisolo. “The proclamations are UNESCO’s first concrete response in meeting the pressing need to safeguard intangible heritage”, declared Mr Matsuura. He stressed that “the purpose of these proclamations is not simply to recognize the value of some elements of the intangible heritage; they entail the commitment of states to implement plans to promote and safeguard the inscribed masterpieces.”
The masterpieces proclaimed are: Azerbaijani Mugham (Azerbaijan), The Carnival of Binche (Belgium), The Andean Cosmovision of the Kallawaya (Bolivia), The Oral and Graphic Expressions of the Wajapi (Brazil), The Oral traditions of the Aka Pygmies of Central Africa (Central African Republic), The Royal Ballet of Cambodia (Cambodia), The Art of Guqin Music (China), The Carnival of Barranquilla (Colombia), La Tumba Francesa, Music of the Oriente Brotherhood (Cuba), The Al-Sirah al-Hilaliyya Epic (Egypt), The Kihnu Cultural Space (Estonia), The Tradition of Vedic Chanting (India), Wayang Puppet Theatre (Indonesia), The Maroon Heritage of Moore Town (Jamaica), Ningyo Johruri Bunraku Puppet Theatre (Japan), The Art of Akyns, Kyrgyz Epic Tellers (Kyrgyzstan), Woodcrafting Knowledge of the Zafimaniry (Madagascar), The Indigenous Festivity dedicated to the Dead (Mexico), The Traditional Music of Morin Khuur (Mongolia), The Pansori Epic Chant (Republic of Korea), Lakalaka, Dances and Sung Speeches of Tonga (Tonga), The Arts of the Meddah, Public Storytellers (Turkey), Vanuatu Sand Drawings (Vanuatu), Nha Nhac, Vietnamese Court Music (Viet Nam), Arab States: Iraqi Maqam (Iraq), Songs of Sanaa (Yemen).
The Jury furthermore bestowed the distinction to two multinational candidacies: The Baltic Song and Dance Celebrations (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania), Shashmaqom Music (Tajikistan and Uzbekistan).
The Jury decided to award Prizes to five of the 28 masterpieces. The Oral traditions of the Aka Pygmies of Central Africa and Vanuatu Sand Drawings received the Arirang Prize, created by the Republic of Korea. La Tumba Francesa, Music of the Oriente Brotherhood of Cuba and was given the Samarkand Taronasi Prize, created by Uzbekistan. The Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Prize, created by the United Arab Emirates, will be awarded to the Royal Ballet of Cambodia and The Al-Sirah al-Hilaliyya Epic of Egypt, in a ceremony that will take place in April 2004.
This year, the Proclamation is especially significant because of the recent adoption by the 32nd session of the General Conference of UNESCO of a Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage*. The proclaimed masterpieces will be inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity provided for in the Convention, as soon as it enters into force, i.e. once it will have been ratified by 30 states.
The jury, comprising 18 members, met to examine 56 national and multi-national candidatures submitted by Member States of UNESCO from November 3 to 6. Each case had already been evaluated by specialist NGOs such as the International Council for Traditional Music, the International Social Science Council, the International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Sciences, the International Puppeteers Union, the International Theatre Institute and the International Council of Museums.
The goal of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity programme is to raise public awareness of the value of this heritage and encourage governments to take legal and administrative steps to safeguard it.
In the first Proclamation, in 2001, 19 masterpieces were given recognition**. The third Proclamation is scheduled to take place in 2005.
A detailed description and photographs of the masterpieces can be downloaded:
A B-roll is available.
Contact: Carole Darmouni, tel. +33 (0)1 45 68 17 38
Photo thumbnail © UNESCO: The Oral Traditions of the Aka Pygmies of Central Africa
Photo © UNESCO/Andrew Wheeler: Film projection at the prize awarding ceremony.