Unesco proclaims new intangible masterpieces

December 2003 -

Unesco has published a list of 28 masterpieces in the area of oral and intangible culture. According to Unesco, these are extraordinary examples of this specific type of heritage.

The term 'intangible heritage' is not as vague as some believe. Examples include languages and singing. The 18-member jury has placed the oral and graphic expressions of the Wajapi in Brazil on the list, along with the oral tradition of the Aka pygmies of Central Africa.

These heritage masterpieces also include music and dance. The other masterpieces proclaimed by the jury included the tradition of Vedic chanting in India and the traditional music of the Morin Khuur, a nomadic people in Mongolia.

Finger drawer in Vanuatu  

Intangible culture also includes rituals and mythology, such as the finger-sand drawings in Vanuatu. Or knowledge of nature and the universe, such as the Cosmovision of the Kallaway culture in Bolivia.

And of course there are the traditional crafts, represented on the UNESCO list by the Woodcrafting Tradition of the Zafimnairy in Madagascar.

Kihnu and Manij are two small islands off the coast of Estonia that have been able to continue a variety of special traditions thanks to their isolated location. According to the experts, these islands are extraordinary examples of 'cultural spaces', another type of intangible heritage.

This list supplements the list of nineteen masterpieces as proclaimed in 2001. The objective of the selection is to make people aware of this type of heritage, and to convince governments to take protective measures.