x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

It takes two to get tango on to UN's protection list

The passionate Latin American dance has taken its place among 76 cultural treasures that have been given protection status by Unesco.

ABU DHABI // The tango, the passionate Latin dance, was among 76 cultural treasures given protection status by Unesco at a meeting in the capital yesterday. The dance was the first addition to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's "representative list" for "intangible cultural heritage", being compiled during a five-day conference that began on Monday.

Argentina and Uruguay have long disputed each other's claims to be the birthplace of the tango, which originated among the urban working class. However, the countries put aside their differences to enter a joint bid to have the dance recognised by Unesco. "Tango is the deepest and most vibrant expression of Rio de la Plata," the Argentine Embassy said. "It has its origins in a strong cultural root and social history, bound as well with the immigration that settled in the Rio de la Plata region in the second half of the 19th century."

Other additions to the list were Croatian lace making, the art of Azerbaijani Ashiqs - which combines poetry, storytelling, dance and vocal and instrumental music - the Ainu dance of Japan, and Chinese block printing and dragonboat racing. Although Unesco has protected examples of physical heritage for decades, a convention to protect "intangible heritage" was signed only in 2003. It is hoped that the recognition that comes from inclusion on the list will encourage young people to join in the traditions.

Ninety "cultural elements", which were previously designated as cultural masterpieces by Unesco, were automatically entered on to the "representative list" last year. Yesterday's additions, chosen from 111 applications, were the first to be nominated by nation states and then assessed. "This is a historic day and a proud moment for Abu Dhabi," said Dr Nasser al Hamiri, director of the department for intangible heritage at Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. "It will be remembered forever that these first additions to the list were made here."

The additions included 22 entries from China and 13 from Japan. None of the UAE's cultural traditions are being assessed for this year's list, but the Emirates was one of 12 countries to nominate the traditional sport of falconry to be added in 2010. It is also preparing admissions for two types of traditional dancing. lmorris@thenational.ae