UNESCO moves to protect cultural treasures

Last Updated: Nov 17, 2010, 10:10 AM IST

Nairobi: The Peking Opera, Chinese acupuncture, French gastronomy and Columbian marimba music Tuesday came to be known as "intangible cultural heritage".

They were among 13 new traditions and customs to be added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization`s (Unesco) list of cultural assets during a conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

The agency has also listed century-old traditions such as China`s watertight-bulkhead technology of junks and Croatia`s Ojkanje singing as needing "urgent safeguarding".

For threatened cultural elements to be included on that list, states must pledge to implement special protection plans. In return, they can receive financial assistance from Unesco.

No more than three craftsmen were reported to still be proficient in the Chinese junk technology, given the demand for modern boats.

Only 11 people - all over 50 years old - are familiar with the Chinese printing with wooden movable type, which was also declared as needing safeguarding.

The Meshrep festival of China`s Uighur minority also joined the list. The festival is aimed at passing on traditions and knowledge, but industrialization and urban emigration has led to a loss of the ancient culture, with many acrobats and singers reportedly no longer really understanding its content.

Unesco will be deliberating until Friday on a total of 47 traditions that have been pitched for the separate Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Among the items welcomed to that list Tuesday were the Azerbaijani art of carpet-weaving and a 600-year-old carnival in Belgium`s Aalst. The European country scored two other entries with Krakelingen and Tonnekensbrand, an end-of-winter bread and fire feast, and its annual Houtem Jaarmarkt winter fair and livestock market.

The inclusion of flamenco in the list, meanwhile, prompted singer Carmen Linares to say Unesco`s recognition of the Spanish music and dance style would help to protect its "essence" from excessive commercialization.

Flamenco began gaining international recognition in the 1960s and 1970s, with musicians such as Paco de Lucia, Culture Minister Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde pointed out.

Spain`s most famous chef, Ferran Adria, welcomed UNESCO`s decision to include the Mediterranean diet on the Intangible World Heritage list.

That will "reinforce the position of Spanish cuisine on the (world) map", Adria said.

IANS