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UNESCO’s Updated Cultural Heritage List

By Carolina Grace Figueroa

Volume 2 Issue 4

February 10, 2022

UNESCO’s Updated Cultural Heritage List

Image provided by Pinterest

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) annually updates its list of unique cultural items. For 2021, 43 new item selections were announced on December 16, 2021. UNESCO is dedicated to preserving heritage and tradition around the world. Its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list now includes 630 items, events, or practices from 140 countries that help build awareness of other societies and carry great cultural significance. I would like to mention a few new and interesting selections:

  1. Haitian joumou soup: (or “freedom soup”) is known as a “symbol of freedom and liberation from slavery” after Haiti gained independence from France in 1804. This soup is made from a pumpkin called “giraumon, vegetables, plantains, meat, pasta, and spices” and is a really flavorful dish that contains the authentic taste of Haiti. It is a celebratory dish that “promotes social cohesion and belonging among communities”. It is consumed the first of January (Haiti’s Independence Day), when it constitutes the first meal of the year, and also serves as traditional Sunday breakfast.

  2. Arabic calligraphy (knowledge, skills, and practice): this form of decorative lettering which is a sacred part of the Saudi, Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan culture. The “artistic practice of handwriting Arabic script in a fluid manner conveys harmony, grace, and beauty”. This script provides a variety of different possibilities “since the letters can be stretched and transformed in numerous ways to create different motifs”.

  3. Palestinian embroidery (called tatreez): patterns and images are hand-stitched onto clothes, with a variety of symbols including birds, trees, and flowers. This tradition “traces back centuries and was revived in 1967, when Palestinian refugees wore the colorful designs to show their national and political identities”. Women in Palestine try to gain their family’s income and do this by creating embroidery and other artwork which is a “social and intergenerational practice”.

  4. Belgian stilt jousting: this game is played on stilts, dating back to the 1400’s. During a joust, “participants attempt to knock all the members of the opposing team to the ground”. Jousts usually take place during festivals in the streets and squares of Namur. This sport is extremely popular and many fans and spectators enjoy coming to the jousting zone, watching and cheering for their favorite teams.

  5. Italian truffle hunting and extraction: truffles are a type of fungi that are considered delicacies. With the help of a dog, the truffle hunters (called tartufai), identify areas where underground fungus grows. “They then use a spade to extract the truffles” without disturbing the soil conditions. To be successful in truffle hunting, this task requires “a wide range of skills and knowledge related to the management of natural ecosystems”.

  6. Netherland flower and fruit parades: in Corso culture, this annual Dutch parade is a “competition of elaborate floats or boats decorated with flowers, fruits, vegetables, and people in costumes”. This practice is great for the social economy because “groups of friends or entire neighborhoods may spend months preparing gigantic floats”. The parade also includes band and theater performances.

  7. Denmark/Finland/Norway/Sweden/Iceland Nordic clinker boat traditions: these small, open wooden boats are made of “thin planks that are fastened to a backbone of keel and stems, and the overlapping planks are fastened together with metal rivets, treenails, or rope”. These coastal clinker boats are between five and ten meters long and are used in Nordic region festivities.

  8. Democratic Republic of the Congo, (Congolese) rumba: this musical genre and dance is used in formal and informal spaces for celebration and mourning. It is an “urban practice danced by a male-female couple”. The rumba is passed down through generations from neighbors, clubs, formal training and schools and is known as a integral part of Congolese identity.

  9. Peru’s pottery: pottery is an example of one’s harmonious relationship with nature. The process of preparing the pottery consists of the “collection of materials, modeling, firing, decorating, and finishing”. The process of pottery has specific stages with different meanings that leave great value to the people of Peru. The pots created are used for cooking, drinking, eating, and serving food, rituals, and ceremonies. The “pottery designs are also used as a means of expressing personality”.

  10. Ecuador’s pasillo, song and poetry: the pasillo is a “fusion of elements of indigenous music (like the yaravi) and dance genres (like the waltz, minuet, and bolero)”. The music is also played with the rhythm of other guitars and is performed in ballroom dances, public events, and outdoor concerts. The lyrics are a “musicalized poem relating to love, homeland, and daily life”.

  11. Denmark’s Inuit drum dancing and singing: “drum dancing and drum singing are traditional forms of Inuit artistic expression in Greenland”. They are featured in celebrations and social events and can be performed by an individual or group. When a drum dance takes place, “the drum is moved in different directions and its frame is struck to produce a sharp, echoing beat”. The song is a combination of lyrics that express daily life. Together, they represent a sense of community for the Greenlandic Inuit”.

  12. Austria/Belgium/France/Germany/Ireland/Italy/Poland falconry: this is the traditional art and practice of training and flying falcons and other birds of prey. Falconry was originally used as “a means of obtaining food but has been integrated into communities as a recreational practice and a way to connect with nature”. Most falconry today focuses on “safeguarding falcons, quarry, and habitats as well as the practice itself”.

I think this cultural information is very interesting and educational, so I wanted to share my research and findings. It is wonderful that UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee recognizes and safeguards many cultural heritages and traditions from around the world.

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