UN’s intangible cultural heritage list comes into being with 90 entries
4 November 2008 – A United Nations-endorsed list of the planet’s intangible cultural heritage, ranging from folk music
and shadow puppetry to ox-herding traditions and sand drawings, came into being today as part of efforts to safeguard
such elements around the world.
The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was established today in Istanbul, Turkey, with
the inclusion of 90 elements that had previously been proclaimed as masterpieces, the UN Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported in a news release.
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said the List’s inauguration “is bringing to life” the Convention for the
Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which was adopted by UNESCO in 2003 and has been ratified by 104 States so
“I am confident that with time, this List – designed to give more visibility to our living heritage – will contribute to
raising awareness of its importance and instil a sense of pride and belonging to custodian communities,” Mr. Matsuura
Both the List and the Convention aim to protect heritage that includes oral traditions, the performing arts, social
practices, craftsmanship and knowledge of nature.
The List’s inauguration took place at the start of a week-long session of the intergovernmental committee overseeing the
implementation of the intangible cultural heritage Convention.
The 90 elements were proclaimed as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001, 2003
or 2005, and another 111 applications for inscriptions on the List have been sent to the intergovernmental committee for
review next year.
The inaugural list covers every region of the world, and includes the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, ox-herding and oxcart
traditions in Costa Rica, polyphonic singing of the Aka Pygmies of the Central African Republic (CAR) and Mexico’s
indigenous festivity dedicated to the dead.
Indonesian shadow puppetry is also included, as are cross-crafting in Lithuania and Latvia, sand drawings in Vanuatu,
initiatory rites in Senegal and Gambia and textile art in Peru.