While you are probably familiar with UNESCO World Heritage sites, you may not be aware of the concept of Intangible World Heritage (also referred to as Intangible Cultural Heritage). The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted in 2003 to ensure the protection, promotion, and transmission of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Convention defines Intangible Cultural Heritage as “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups, and in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.”
Intangible World Heritage is vulnerable to various threats, including globalization, urbanization, natural disasters, and political instability. Many intangible cultural practices are in danger of disappearing as younger generations abandon traditional ways of life in favor of more modern lifestyles. Climate can also threaten various intangible cultural practices, such as fishing and farming traditions that rely on natural resources.
To protect and promote Intangible Cultural Heritage, UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has developed a range of initiatives, including creating national inventories, establishing safeguarding plans, and promoting traditional practices and knowledge. UNESCO also encourages tourism to promote and sustain Intangible World Heritage.
Examples of Intangible World Heritage
Intangible World Heritage encompasses a wide range of practices, beliefs, and traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. Here are some examples from the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
One example of Intangible World Heritage that is in danger is the traditional art of Chinese calligraphy. This ancient art form, which involves the use of a brush and ink to create intricate and beautiful characters, has been practiced for thousands of years. However, in recent years, the rise of digital technology has led to a decline in the practice of calligraphy as younger generations have become less inclined to practice this traditional art form.
Kabuki, a traditional Japanese art form that dates back to the early 17th century, is also at risk of disappearing. Kabuki performances are known for their extravagant costumes, makeup, and stylized movements, often featuring historical or mythical stories. The actors use exaggerated expressions and movements to convey emotions and actions. Kabuki has been recognized for its unique artistic and cultural value and ability to connect people to Japan’s rich cultural history.
Another example is the music and dance of the Garifuna people of Central America. The Garifuna people are a unique ethnic group who have managed to preserve their cultural traditions despite centuries of oppression and discrimination. Their music and dance are essential to their cultural identity, but these practices are at risk due to migration and cultural assimilation.
Intangible Cultural Heritage is an essential part of human life and offers valuable insights into the diversity and creativity of different cultures around the world. However, many intangible cultural practices are in danger of disappearing due to various threats. By visiting destinations that offer unique and valuable cultural experiences, we can support and preserve them for future generations. Next time you travel, you can browse the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage on their website and see the initiatives/activities you can get involved in while getting to know a new country.
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