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Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity

PARIS, FRANCE.-The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today proclaimed 43 new Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity. Traditional Indian performances of the Ramayana, the Ramlila, Japan’s Kabuki theatre, the Zambian Makishi Masquarade and the Samba of Roda (Brazil) are among the masterpieces proclaimed. This is UNESCO’s third proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage, an international distinction destined to raise public awareness of the value of this heritage, which includes popular and traditional oral forms of expression, music and dance, rituals and mythologies, knowledge and practices concerning the universe, know-how linked to traditional crafts, as well as cultural spaces. Often vulnerable, this heritage, a repository of cultural diversity, is essential to the identity of communities and peoples.

The 43 masterpieces proclaimed this year are*:

- Albanian folk iso-polyphony (Albania)
- Ahellil of Gourara (Algeria)
- Duduk Music (Armenia)
- Baul songs (Bangladesh)
- Processional giants and dragons in Belgium and France (Belgium and France)
- The mask dance of the drums from Drametse (Bhutan)
- Samba of Roda from Recôncavo Baiano (Brazil)
- The Bistritsa Babi (grandmothers of Bistritsa) – Archaic polyphony, dances and ritual practices from the Shoplouk region (Bulgaria)
- Sbek Thom, Khmer shadow theatre (Cambodia)
- The Art of Chinese Xinjiang Uyghur Muqam (China)
- The cultural space of Palenque de San Basilio (Colombia)
- Oxherding and oxcart tradition in Costa Rica (Costa Rica)
- Slovácko Verbuňk, Dance of recruits (Czech Republic)
- Cocolo dancing drama tradition (Dominican Republic)
- Rabinal Achí Ballet (Guatemala)
- Ramlila: the traditional performance of the Ramayana (India)
- Indonesian Kris (Indonesia)
- The A Tenore Song of the Sardinian pastoral culture (Italy)
- Kabuki (Japan)
- The cultural space of the Bedu in Petra and Wadi Rum (Jordan)
- Vimbuza Healing Dance (Malawi)
- Gule Wamkulu (Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia)
- Mak Yong (Malaysia)
- The cultural space of the Yaaral and Degal (Mali)
- Urtiin Duu - Mongolian traditional folk Long Song (Mongolia and China)
- The Moussem of Tan-Tan (Morocco)
- Chopi Timbila (Mozambique)
- El Güegüense (Nicaragua)
- Ifa Divination system in Nigeria (Nigeria)
- The Palestinian Hikaye (submitted by Alecso)
- Taquile and its textile art (Peru)
- Darangen Epic of the Maranao People of Lake Lanao (Philippines)
- Gangneung Danoje Festival (Republic of Korea)
- The Căluş (Romania)
- Yakut Heroic Epos - Olonkho (Russian Federation)
- The Kankurang, or Manding initiatory rite (Senegal and Gambia)
- Fujara - Musical instrument and its music (Slovakia)
- The Patum of Berga (Spain)
- The Mevlevi Sema Ceremony (Turkey)
- Bark cloth making in Uganda (Uganda)
- The space of Gong culture in the Central Highland of Vietnam (Vietnam)
- The Makishi Masquerade (Zambia)
- Mbende/Jerusarema dance (Zimbabwe)

The 43 new masterpieces were proposed to the Director-General by an 18-member jury chaired by Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan. The jury met from 20 to 24 November to examine 64 national and multinational candidatures. A total of 47 masterpieces were proclaimed in 2001 and 2003. Twenty-seven of them have already benefited from UNESCO’s support, particularly from safeguarding operations which received financial assistance from Japan.

This third proclamation will probably be the last. In 2003, UNESCO’s General Conference adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. It stipulates that a Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity be created, alongside a List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. The Convention will enter into force shortly, once 30 States have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, which has already been done 26 States. The masterpieces from States Parties to the Convention that were proclaimed by UNESCO since 2001 will feature in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity so as to ensure their continued safeguard.

At the opening of the jury meeting, on 21 November, the Director-General of UNESCO declared: “We must not consider this phase as a last step, but rather as a moment of birth. In fact, the considerable experience accumulated over the last six years in terms of the methodology of identification and selection of masterpieces, and also in terms of concrete lessons drawn from ongoing safeguarding plans constitutes the irreplaceable matrix that will be of precious utility in implementing the Convention.” Recalling that the number of candidatures received rose from 32 in 2001 to 56 in 2003, and 64 in 2005, Mr Matsuura added: “These figures bear witness to the interest and the growing involvement of States in the safeguarding of their intangible cultural heritage.”

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