x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Arab countries need to protect traditions

Arab countries need to nominate their cultural traditions for inclusion on a world register to prevent a geographical imbalance on the list.

Dancers Perform at the First Presidential Camel Festival at the Abu Dhabi National Theater.
Dancers Perform at the First Presidential Camel Festival at the Abu Dhabi National Theater.

Arab countries need to nominate their cultural traditions for inclusion on a world register to help protect them for future generations and prevent a geographical imbalance on the list, a Unesco official said on Monday. Unesco's intergovernmental committee for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage has been struggling to assess 111 applications for admission to a "representative list" of the world's intangible, or living heritage, said Françoise Rivière, the representative for the director general of Unesco. The list is skewed regionally, with a high number of applications from Asian countries, Ms Rivière said. Additions will be made during a five-day meeting in Abu Dhabi, which began on Monday. "Africa and Arab states ? are far behind all regions, only one bid had been submitted from all African states for the representative list in 2010," Ms Rivière said. "A list called "representative" cannot display such an imbalance between regions or within a region." Out of 280 applications received for the list so far, including those to be considered at next year's meeting, only two Arab countries, the UAE and Oman, have submitted nominations. The UAE did not submit an application to be considered for the list this year, but was among 12 nations that put forward the traditional sport of falconry for consideration in next year's list. It also plans to put forward files for two types of traditional dancing. Ms Rivière called on delegates to consider how to address this regional imbalance, which could take as long as a decade to rcorrect, during the meeting and suggested that countries be limited to putting forward three applications a year. Delegates from more than 114 nations are attending the meeting, where for the first time cultural traditions at severe risk will be added an "urgent safeguarding list". Olabiyi Yai, the chairman of Unesco's executive board, said: ""Living, or intangible, heritage anchors our sense and consciousness of identity and continuity, renewal and transformation so essential to the life of all societies, and is the real mainspring of the world's cultural diversity. "These living heritages are sediments of generations of wisdoms, values and traditional knowledge, unparalleled legacies, precious to inspire us on ways to face the challenges the world is witnessing today." A total,of 90 "cultural elements" which were formerly named as Unesco "masterpieces" under a previous project, were automatically added to the "representative list" last year, but the roster will be expanded at this year's meeting. Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, gave the opening address, highlighting the national strategies the UAE has undertaken to protect its heritage. "Heritage in the UAE is at the forefront in all plans and strategies, its vividness and eternal human values, enhance achievements and open the way towards a greater good," he said, pointing to the work of the Emirates to record and preserve its cultural heritage through listing and archiving, research papers, and audio visual recordings. A new centre for music in the Islamic world will be formally announced on Saturday, according to Dr Nasser al Hamiri, head of the intangible heritage department at Adach. The centre, based in Abu Dhabi, will make traditional compositions and musical material available to artists and researchers. "The most important part of this gathering is the fact that it will be a promotion for intangible heritage in the UAE," Dr Hamiri said. "The people will get to know more about cultural heritage and learn that people across the world are celebrating their heritage." lmorris@thenational.ae