Someone on a listserv I belong to just introduced me to UNESCO’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage and Humanity. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization says of intangible heritage:
Cultural heritage is not limited to material manifestations, such as monuments and objects that have been preserved over time. This notion also encompasses living expressions and the traditions that countless groups and communities worldwide have inherited from their ancestors and transmit to their descendants, in most cases orally.
Website of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguarding Endangered Languages Many years of research undertaken by UNESCO on the functions and values of cultural expressions and practices have opened the door to new approaches to the understanding, protection and respect of the cultural heritage of humanity. This living heritage, known as intangible, provides each bearer of such expressions a sense of identity and continuity, insofar as he or she takes ownership of them and constantly recreates them.
As a driving force of cultural diversity, living heritage is very fragile. In recent years, it has received international recognition and its safeguarding has become one of the priorities of international cooperation thanks to UNESCO’s leading role in the adoption of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
See a list of UNESCO’s 90 cultural masterpieces and explore this interactive presentation/Web site exploring cultural expressions, including Bangladesh’s Baul Songs, the Central African Republic’s Polyphonic Singing of the Aka Pygmies of Central Africa and China’s Kung Qu Opera. I was struck, as I am sometimes, at how beautifully diverse our world is and how much non-Western culture is under-valued. This is a great Web site to explore with the kids.
Image of Baul singers courtesy of I See Through A Lens on Flickr. All rights reserved.