Italy and South-East Europe’s cultural diversity highlighted by new Intangible Cultural Heritage inscriptions

Seven elements from South-East Europe and Italy were added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at the ninth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, held between 24 and 28 November in Paris. The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity includes elements that highlight the diversity of cultural heritage and raise awareness as to its importance.

Ranging from carpet weaving to vine growing, these inscriptions illustrate a wide variety of traditional practices. Each of them provides an opportunity for social cohesion and exchange, and each is preserved and handed down from generation to generation, forming an integral part of the cultural identity of groups and communities.

The following new elements were inscribed :

Zmijanje embroidery (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Groups of women in the Zmijanje villages of Bosnia and Herzegovina practice a specific technique that consists in decorating female clothing and household items with blue thread embroidered in rich geometric patterns. The tradition, which has a strong sentimental and emotional value, is transmitted to younger generations, and is often accompanied by singing.

Chiprovski kilimi, the tradition of carpet-making in Chiprovtsi (Bulgaria)

Almost every house in the town of Chiprovski, eastern Bulgaria, contains a handloom, used to weave kilimi, colourful carpets with ornamental motifs. The practice, an integral part of the social and cultural life of the population, is often accompanied by singing and story-telling, and is transmitted informally from mothers and grandmothers to daughters.

Know-how of cultivating mastic on the island of Chios (Greece)

Mastic is a product with renowned properties cultivated on the Greek island of Chios.The various stages of its production involve a large cross-section of the island’s population. The culture of mastic represents an inclusive social event, around which networks of alliances and mutual support have been established. These communal practices also provide an opportunity to perpetuate collective memory through storytelling.

Traditional agricultural practice of cultivating the ‘vite ad alberello’ (head-trained bush vines) of the community of Pantelleria (Italy)

The traditional practice of cultivating head-trained bush vines is performed using sustainable methods by the inhabitants of the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria. The knowledge and skills involved in the process are handed down within families by means of oral and practical instruction in the local dialect, and shared in a series of festivals and rituals taking place between July and September.

Slava, celebration of family saint patron’s day (Serbia)

The Orthodox Christian community in Serbia celebrates the holiday of the patron saint Slava by performing a series of rituals passed down through families, with women playing an important role. The Slava feast enhances social relations and plays an important role in establishing and maintaining dialogue in multi-ethnic and multi-confessional areas.

Kopachkata, a social dance from the village of Dramche, Pijanec, (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)

Kopachkata is a dynamic and energetic dance performed by male residents of the village of Dramche, in the Pijanec region, at weddings, public gatherings and religious holidays. Younger participants progress to a more prominent position as their skills improve, and the dance represents a symbol of cultural identity for the entire region.

Ebru, Turkish art of marbling (Turkey)

Ebru is the traditional Turkish art of creating colourful designs with pigments that are then transferred onto paper and used for decoration or in bookbinding. It takes over two years to learn the basic skills involved in the art, which is passed on orally and through informal practical training within master-apprentice relationships without restrictions of age, gender of ethnicity, playing a significant role in the empowerment of women and the improvement of community relationships.

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Italy and all the South-East European countries have ratified the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003), which came into force on 20 June 2006. Its enforcement remains a political priority for the international community as a whole. These expressions represent an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity faced with growing globalization. At the same time, they highlight the crucial role played by civil society in fostering creativity and improving cultural and inter-ethnic relations and exchange, values which have long been at the heart of UNESCO’s mission.