Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Inscribing Intangible Heritage

Last week, the 2012 session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held at UNESCO in Paris.

Of the 36 intangible assets nominated to the UNESCO "Representative List", 26 of these were found to fill all criteria for inscription by the evaluation committee. The Fest-Noz phenomenon of Brittany was among them:

Among other things, each nominating country needs to prove that the submitted traditions are grassroot activities supported by community involvement, not 'top down' government projects. As the evaluation committee notes. "the Convention emphasizes that intangible cultural heritage provides communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals with a sense of identity and continuity, without invoking the notion of ‘national’ identity".
Therefore, nomination forms include space for describing community ties. Here is what the French application states:
The practice of Fest-Noz belongs to the participants (mostly dancers, but also simply to visitors, families, children, the elderly ...), the singers and musicians, and organizers. It also depends indirectly on other elements: educational structures, documentation resource centres, luthiers. The thousands of regular dancers come from all generations and all social conditions. Thanks to the Fest-Noz, Brittany is one of the regions of France with the largest number of singers and musicians, both amateur and professional -- some anonymous and some very well-known.
Most of the organizers are small local associations. Although the activist cultural movement was responsible for jump starting the renewal of the Fest-Noz, it quickly surpassed this movement and its subsequent success owes nothing to any centralized structure. There is no form of regional federation of Fest-Noz organizers. However, indirectly, certain regional structures have played and continue to play a special role in the success of the Fest-Noz, including the major federations of Celtic circles War'leur and Kendalc'h for the transmission of the dances, and Dastum for transmitting the compilations of songs and music.
Another nomination was multipart Klapa singing from Dalmatia, along the southern coast of Croatia:

In their decision, the evaluation committee wrote that Klapa singing" brings together different groups of people and serves as a marker of identity for the people of Dalmatia; the practice has been transformed over the years to adapt to changing social circumstances."

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