UNESCO Inscribes Reggae Into World Heritage List

Bob Marley: Reggae’s acclaimed exponent

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), has added Jamaican reggae, Georgian wrestling and Japanese Raiho-shin rituals, among six new elements to its list of “intangible heritage” for the world to treasure.

The UN cultural agency said the listings were meant to further improve the visibility of often little-known and understood arts traditions.

The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is meeting until December 1 in Mauritius, inscribing new elements to its much coveted-list

A lot of music lovers were happy to learn that Jamaican reggae, originating from marginalised groups, mainly in Western Kingston, was also inscribed.

UNESCO said the genre’s “contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual”.

From the border between Asia and Europe, in Georgia, it added Chidaoba, which combines elements of wrestling, music, dance and special garments.

The practice encourages a healthy lifestyle and plays an important role in intercultural dialogue, according to UNESCO, which called its code of conduct “chivalric,” and noted that “occasionally the wrestlers leave the arena with a Georgian folk dance”.

Hurling, a field game from Ireland, which dates back 2,000 years, and features strongly in Irish mythology, also made the grade.

Played by two teams using a wooden “hurley” stick and a small “sliotar” ball, UNESCO said, “hurling is considered as an intrinsic part of Irish culture and plays a central role in promoting health and wellbeing, inclusiveness and team spirit”.

Japan’s Raiho-shin rituals, used to admonish against laziness and teach children good behaviour, was another winner.

Stemming from folk beliefs that deities visit communities and usher in the New Year or season, local people dress in outlandish costumes and visit houses as deities.

The UN cultural agency said: “By performing the rituals, local people – notably children – have their identities moulded, develop a sense of affiliation to their community, and strengthen ties among themselves”.

Practised across many areas of Jordan, As-Samer, another new inscription, consists mainly of dancing and singing. Performed on various occasions, most commonly during weddings, UNESCO explained.

The UN agency said that poetry formed an integral part of the tradition, “expressing feelings of joy, peace, intimacy and empathy” among those in attendance.

Marking the end of the old and beginning of a new annual horse-breeding cycle, the spring festive rites of Kazakh horse breeders were also inscribed.

Rooted in traditional knowledge of nature and an age-old relation between man and horse, the rites involve skills inherited from nomadic ancestors, adapted to meet present-day conditions to ensure its continued viability.

Also listed was a historic joint bid made by both North Korea and South Korea, to include traditional Korean wrestling known as “ssirum” or “ssireum”.

Fundamentally linked to land and agriculture, UNESCO said its Executive Director, Audrey Azoulay, was instrumental in persuading North and South Koreas to combine cultural forces, embracing both a national sport and a very popular cultural practice.

UNESCO quoted Azoulay as saying the “unprecedented result” was “a highly symbolic step towards inter-Korean reconciliation that reminds us of the peace-building power of cultural heritage”.

The UN cultural agency said: “All the listed elements are important in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalisation, without recognising standards of excellence or exclusivity”.

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