Lebanon’s Al-Zajal poetry, knuckle-bone shooting in Mongolia and Portuguese Cante Alentejano chanting are among 11 new elements inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage this morning.
The Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is meeting in Paris until 28 November and will continue inscribing new elements this afternoon.
The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity includes elements that demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance.
The following new elements were inscribed this morning:
Al-Zajal, recited or sung poetry (Lebanon)
Al-Zajal is a form of Lebanese folk poetry declaimed or sung at social and family celebrations and in daily life. During poetic jousts, troupes of poets perform verses, often in the form of challenges, in front of a mixed audience to the rhythm of the tambourine and derbouka. These verbal exchanges evoke the beauty of Lebanon, the importance of tolerance, and dialogue between communities and religions. The poetic jousts serve as a safety valve helping to resolve conflicts and strengthen social cohesion.
Tchopa is practised among Lhomwe communities in southern Malawi. The dance is usually performed during celebrations after good harvests and successful hunting trips and during offerings to ancestral spirits after calamities such as droughts and outbreaks of disease. Knowledge and skills for the dance are transmitted by bearers during practice sessions and occasional performances. Tchopa strengthens social cohesion among Lhomwe communities, with members providing mutual support in times of need, such as illness and bereavement, as well as assisting communal labour in the field.
The coming forth of the masks and puppets is a ritual festivity practised among communities in Markala. During the dry season, young neophytes pass through rituals performed in a sacred wood next to the Niger River and characterized by masked dances and puppetry. Each mask and puppet symbolizes the sacred link between man and nature, with particular animals incarnating specific virtues of society. The ritual illustrates the cohesion, dialogue, tolerance and continuity of the plural cultural identities of the Markala communities and neighbouring villages
Traditional Mauritian Sega is a performing art emblematic of the Creole community. Each solo singer improvises lyrics, while a frame drum, box rattle and triangle keep time and produce the rhythmic beat. Dancers move their hips and hands, using short steps to manoeuvre around each other. Practitioners transmit their skills both formally and informally through participation and imitation. Sega can be danced by all members of the community and contributes to unify various groups around a shared Mauritian heritage.
Knuckle-bone shooting is a popular team-based game played in Mongolia. Teams of six to eight players flick thirty domino-like marble tablets on a smooth wooden surface towards a target of sheep knuckle-bones, aiming to knock them into a target zone. Each shooter possesses individually crafted shooting tools and instruments, and wears a costume which indicates rank and merits. The tradition encourages interaction between team members from different backgrounds and mutual respect, notably for the elders, while improving social cohesion.
Rural women and, to a lesser extent, men living in the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve in Morocco practise traditional methods to extract oil from the fruit of the argan tree. The oil has multiple uses in cooking, medicine and cosmetics, and is given as a wedding gift. The cultivation of the tree, oil extraction, the preparation of recipes and products, and the crafting of traditional tools for these various tasks are transmitted through imitation and non-formal education.
Joking relationships are a social practice performed to regulate social relationships and ease tensions among persons of different ethnolinguistic communities. Members are required to tell each other the truth, joke and play games together, and pool their respective assets, knowing that any dispute must be settled peacefully. Transmitted informally from generation to generation, joking relationships are a tool for reconciliation and peace-building. They promote the cohesion and stability of families, ethnic groups and communities.
Al-Ayyala is a popular cultural performance practised in Oman and the United Arab Emirates during religious and national festivals and weddings. It involves chanted poetry, drum music and dance, and simulates a battle scene. Two rows of men face each other, carrying bamboo sticks. They move their heads and sticks and chant poetic lyrics, while other performers move between the rows holding, throwing and catching swords or guns. The position of lead performer is usually inherited and involves the training of others performers.
The Festivity of Virgen de la Candelaria, celebrated each February in the city of Puno, draws on Catholic traditions and symbolic elements of the Andean worldview of the local Quechua and Aymara ethnic groups. A liturgical celebration is followed by a religious procession carrying an image of the Virgin aloft through the streets. Traditional knowledge and skills of dance, music and mask-making are passed on to younger generations during rehearsals and in craft workshops by three practitioner federations.
Cante Alentejano is a genre of traditional two-part singing performed by amateur choral groups in southern Portugal. It is characterized by distinctive melodies, lyrics and vocal styles performed without instrumental accompaniment. A vast repertoire of traditional poetry is set to existing or newly created melodies, with lyrics exploring both traditional and contemporary themes. It permeates social gatherings in both public and private spaces, reinforcing dialogue between generations, genders and individuals from different backgrounds, thereby contributing to social cohesion.
Nongak is a popular performing art widely practised in the Republic of Korea combining a percussion ensemble, parades, dancing, drama and acrobatic feats. It is performed to appease the gods, as a prayer for rich harvests in spring, during autumn festivals and to raise funds for community projects.Nongak helps enhance solidarity and cooperation and establish a sense of shared identity. The public becomes familiar with Nongak through observation and participation, while community groups and educational institutions play an important role in transmitting it.
Journalists wishing to cover the Committee session (UNESCO, Room I, 125, avenue de Suffren, Paris) are requested to contact UNESCO’s Press Service for accreditation.