Writer : Roslyn Russell, PhD
This 17th volume of the International Journal of Intangible Heritage includes a wide range of articles on aspects of intangible cultural heritage that are organised under a number of subject headings: discussions of aspects of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage; folklore and mythology; festivals; museology; intangible cultural heritage and places; and craft. This volume also carries a special contribution by Michelle L. Stefano on the role of intangible cultural heritage in the discourse around and development of the new ICOM definition of a museum.
The ways in which the ICH Convention has been deployed in education and in safeguarding tradition are considered in two articles. The first is a comprehensive literature review by Angela M. Labrador, ‘Integrating ICH and education: A review of converging theories and methods’. While the Convention’s Operational Directives enumerate a number of educational policies that countries may implement, the highly contextual nature of ICH and the complex politics of developing national curricula mean there is no overarching solution for integrating ICH in education. The article surveys academic journals and ‘grey literature’ to document what has been accomplished to date in the area of education, and what new opportunities have emerged. It outlines four converging trends: understanding intergenerational transmission as a form of education; promoting culturally responsive pedagogies; linking ICH safeguarding to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals; and shifting away from didactically teaching about heritage to teaching through heritage. This convergence offers benefits to practitioners both in the fields of ICH and education as well as to policymakers. The article also identifies research gaps and suggests additional research questions for future consideration by educators and heritage professionals.
The second article under the ICH heading, ‘Our Culture is dying: Safeguarding versus representation in the implementation of the UNESCO ICH Convention’ by Lisa Gilman, interrogates the belief that there is some benefit ‘to humanity’ for communities to continue to practise, or ‘safeguard’, their valued cultural forms. Implementation of the Convention often requires selecting ‘representative’ elements to display to outside audiences, sometimes for financial gain. Missing from both the Convention’s discourse and many implementation plans is the recognition that what a community might most hope to safeguard may differ from what they would choose to share with others as representing their culture. Using examples from Malawi, Gilman argues that the Convention’s combined goals of representation and safeguarding may be too ambitious, and asserts that the Convention has been less effective as a tool for cultural conservation than for creating opportunities for cultural groups to display their cultural phenomena to outside audiences, whether for reasons of identity, pride, diversity or moneymaking. An explicit recognition that implementation is often more about representing rather than safeguarding could create greater clarity and produce more deliberate, effective and ethical outcomes.
Folklore and mythology are key elements of intangible cultural heritage. The three articles grouped here interrogate their subjects through a range of scholarly lenses: narrative analysis; cross-cultural comparative study; and ethnography.
‘The other side of the coin: Towards a narrative analysis of Dogri folk tales’ by Devika Sharma and Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi explores the cohesive units that help in the formation of narrative context, thereby making them compelling and worth reading or listening to. Folk narratives consist of inclusive information that builds up the social identity of a community. Cultural knowledge and community wisdom of native speakers play an important role in the decoding and meaning-making process. The study analyses extracts collected from Dogri folk tales of India to inquire about the cohesive formation at sentence and discourse level. The findings of this analysis illustrate the active use of cohesive binders in Dogri tales, and how the mechanisms work in varied forms to build a lucid discourse. This case study of regional tales can help to popularise the culture of vulnerable societies and share the Indigenous wisdom embedded in their folk tales globally.
Two scholars from Korea and Peru, Park Ho-Jin and Rodolfo Sánchez Garrafa, examine the similarities and differences between the origin myths of the sun and moon in their respective cultures in ‘The Origin Myth of Sun and Moon in the Andean and Korean Traditions’. Korea and Peru have in common the rope motif in their cultural traditions of the creation of the sun and moon, a familiar trope in folklore studies. Based on Lévi-Strauss’s theory of mythemes, the authors analyse the Korean story, ‘The Brother and Sister who Became Sun and Moon’ and the Andean ‘Wakon and the Willkas’, in terms of five mythemic aspects: the revelation of a primordial time; the single mother and her journey; the twins or siblings; the trickster, predator or victimiser; and the cosmic rope and the transit between upper and lower worlds. A common mythological structure can be identified in both traditions, in spite of their apparent differences. When the myths employ the rope in a similar
way, it hardly seems cross cultural but uniquely culture specific. When it comes to this similarity, however, their relationship or influence will require explication in further comprehensive studies.
‘We paint stories we heard from our ancestors: Intangible heritage of the Pardhan Gonds of Central India’ by Shivangi Pareek, analyses artworks made by ‘Adivasi’ or ‘Indigenous’ artists from India. The Gonds are one of the largest Adivasi groups in India, and in precolonial times, the Pardhan Gonds of central India served as itinerant bards and genealogists for their patrons among the Gond communities. The Pardhan Gonds now paint their oral songs and stories, and these painted artworks are increasingly in demand across diverse audiences in local and global art circles. This article considers oral stories, songs and decorative wall art patterns as longer histories in which contemporary Gond visual art is situated, and proposes that these visual and oral expressions speak of proximate relations with the natural environment and are imbued with emotions of reverence and devotion towards the natural world.
Festivals – or fiestas - are a highly visible and public form of intangible cultural heritage. The two articles under this heading analyse both changing trends in festival sponsorship; and controversies that arise when traditional expression conflicts with the criteria for inscription on the ICH register, as was the case with the Aalst Carnival in Belgium.
‘Hermano mayor: fiesta sponsorship in the contemporary Philippines’ by Jose Antonio Lorenzo L. Tamayo investigates the changing nature of fiesta sponsorship over the centuries, that originated with religious rituals that were a way of life for pre-Hispanic Filipinos even before the arrival of the Spaniards and the introduction of Christianity in the Philippines. The pagan practices gradually changed when Christianity deeply penetrated the local culture. The conduct of the fiesta was introduced by the Spaniards, particularly the religious orders that came to the Philippines, to entice the principalias (nobility) and the ordinary people to transfer to the newly established pueblos (towns). As the fiesta came with a hefty cost, an hermano mayor (major sponsor) was selected from a pool of local elite to sponsor the expenses. After 500 years, while the hermano mayor tradition is still apparent, it is only a passing theme in extant literature. The article explores and describes the centuriesold tradition, and creates a profile of those who have become an hermano mayor in modern times, and describes why such a tradition persists to this day.
Marthe Van Damme in ‘UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage and its polarising nature: A case study on Aalst Carnival’, describes what can happen if intangible cultural heritage has been recognised and inscribed on one of the UNESCO lists and, within its expression, the tradition goes against the list’s inscription criteria and causes controversy. The article explains the events that took place during the Carnival of Aalst in Belgium, as well as the controversies it sparked. It sheds light on the visible tensions between different aspects of the controversy. Its scope thus remains limited to a brief explanation of intangible cultural heritage and the tradition of Aalst Carnival. Within this context, a judicial approach through case law research of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the right to freedom of expression and its limitations is used to provide a legal assessment of the controversy. The article discusses the limitations of this legal approach and proposes recommendations in other policy fields, and attempts to reconcile these tensions and balance the competing interests in order to diminish the likelihood of such controversies recurring.
Two articles explore museological issues, one in relation to a Cambodian musical instrument and its making; and the other on the power of intangible heritage to inform and animate interpretation in a museum setting.
Catherine Grant, in ‘Documenting an endangered Cambodian musical tradition: Unexpected findings on the provenance of the British Museum’s “Asset 1380796001’’’, has as its subject the Cambodian Jew’s harp or angkuoch that can be found both among the majority Khmer people and some ethnic minorities, across several Cambodian provinces. Before the 1970s, playing and enjoying angkuoch was a popular local pastime in village communities but social and cultural shifts in Cambodia over the last half-century, including the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975–1979), mean that angkuoch is now highly endangered both as an instrument and as a performance practice. The author led an international project team in 2020 to document the process of angkuoch-making in two rural village communities in Siem Reap province, in collaboration with Cambodian Living Arts and local artists and instrument-makers. The article reports the unexpected and incidental discovery of the likely provenance of ‘Asset 1380796001’ in the British Museum collection, an angkuoch of a previously unknown maker, donated to the Museum in 1966. It describes and reflects on these circumstances and outcomes, not only as they advance historical knowledge about angkuoch and angkuoch-making, but also their relevance to fieldwork documentation approaches, the ethics of collaborative ethnography, and the intersections between intangible cultural heritage (music) and material knowledge (musical instruments) in the context of a museum project.
‘Uncast in stone: Inspired by absence to build a solid museum practice’ by Bonita Bennett employs the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa to assert a powerful synergy between intangible and tangible
heritage as a key dynamic in museum practice. Museums all over the world have accepted that intangible heritage has a valuable place in the memory of the world. However, tangible and intangible heritage are often
regarded as dichotomous – located at opposite ends of a spectrum, leaving many custodians of intangible heritage struggling to occupy a firm place in a sector dominated by objects, physical sites and other forms of material culture. District Six Museum (D6M) in Cape Town, South Africa, has built a strong memory practice that rests on a constant affirmation of the synergies that can exist between tangible and intangible heritage when engaged as part of a dynamic continuum. It leans strongly towards privileging intangible heritage, advocating for it to be acknowledged as valid and substantive in its own right.
Place as a locus for intangible cultural heritage is a consistent theme that is explored in this volume in articles describing four diverse locations: a farming community in Argao, Cebu in the Philippines; a pilgrimage route in Spain; shipwreck sites as underwater cultural heritage; and the Turkish bath tradition in a specific location, Gaziantep, in Turkey.
Ian Dale Batac Rios, in**‘Between people and place: Folklore pertaining to the natural environment in a farming community in Argao, Cebu’**, presents the results of qualitative research in a farming community in a mountain barangay in Argao, Cebu, in the Philippines, where a harmonious interplay between people and place is expressed in a variety of forms of intangible cultural heritage. The article documents the values behind the interplay between culture and nature as embedded in various forms of local folklore pertaining to the natural environment considered culturally and economically significant to the community’s way of living. It focuses on local folk beliefs, rituals and practices, and folk narratives and stories relating to the natural environment. Drawing on the concept of associative cultural values attached to landscapes, the unwritten local knowledge on the natural environment transmitted from generation to generation illustrates the intimate relationship between people in the farming community and their natural environment. Folklore, however, is now a less understood integral component of culture, and some factors have caused its devaluation, unlearning and discontinuation, especially among the younger generation. The article presents the urgency of collaborative efforts between the natural and social sciences to multiply the values of landscapes and strengthen the relevance of conservation on the ground.
‘Exploring sonority embedded in cultural heritage: Path, transit and listen through the Silver Route (Way of St James, NW Spain)’ by Elena De Uña-Álvarez, examines sound environments encountered by pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, a popular walking route for people around the world, believers or non-believers alike. Environmental sonority, related to viewing, listening and walking along a path, has only seldom been contemplated in the first European Cultural Route, the Way of St James (Camino de Santiago). The research, focused on a section of the Silver Route (Vía de la Plata) variant (Galicia, north-west Iberian Peninsula), defines several sound environments configured by the sound sources, acoustic properties and the culture of the territory. Integrating the environmental sonority in a musical piece facilitates the promotion of knowledge and awareness of the sound heritage, together with an implied appreciation for it. The audible spectrum, provided with emotional and evocative power, has an important role in defining cultural heritage from the present to the future. Furthermore, it is particularly relevant in confinement situations such as the one experienced in Europe in the year 2020.
Elena Perez, in**‘Shipwrecks and graves: Their treatment as intangible heritage’**, deals with the paucity of scholarly studies relating to ethical dilemmas associated with human remains, often encountered on shipwrecks in the course of underwater archaeology. The treatment and management of human remains in land archaeology has been much debated, but references in the field of underwater cultural heritage are almost non-existent. The topic’s importance has been recognised by some nations that have established legal frameworks to protect human remains. Nevertheless, ethical dilemmas around the topic have not been discussed, and protocols for the management of shipwrecks with or without human remains have not been established. The article discusses the management of human remains as part of an underwater cultural heritage site, and the ethical issues that this complicated heritage presents at an international level. It looks both at those shipwrecks that still preserve human remains and those where the remains have disappeared but were once there. It also introduces three concepts, applied for the first time to human remains, based on a variety of cultural attitudes: absent, invisible and intangible heritage.
‘Turkish bath tradition: The example of Gaziantep, Turkey’, by Tülay Karadayı Yenice and Meltem Ararat, asserts that conservation of monumental and civil architectural heritage is an important element of cultural sustainability; and that preserving these structures with their original characteristics and transferring them to future generations contributes to social memory formation and builds a bridge between the past and future generations. In this context, a sustainable and holistic conservation approach should cover not only tangible but also intangible heritage. Local culture, customs and traditions also affect and change the formation of local architecture. The research reported in this article examines the influence of local bath traditions on bath structures, and focuses on the relationship between local hammam traditions and Turkish bath architecture in the city of Gaziantep, Turkey. The findings of the research show that intangible cultural heritage has been a significant factor in shaping tangible heritage.
Craft is the final category of intangible cultural heritage to be considered in this issue of the Journal. Yawen Xu and Yu Tao, in**‘Cultural impacts of state interventions: Traditional craftsmanship in China’s porcelain capital in the mid to late 20th century’** assess the cultural impact of China’s state interventions on traditional craftsmanship by analysing the state’s role in Jingdezhen’s porcelain manufacturing in the mid to late 20th century. An analytical framework is developed based on six essential attributes of traditional craftsmanship. The article then applies this framework to a comprehensive assessment of how Jingdezhen’s state-led porcelain production practice affected various aspects of traditional craftsmanship. Empirical evidence reveals some state interventions had adverse effects on the inherence and development of traditional craftsmanship. In general, the state interventions lowered the involvement of artistic elements in the production and consumption of porcelain crafts, hindered the market’s role in signalling customers’ preferences to producers, and terminated dispersed production in traditional private workshops. However, state interventions, by and large, did facilitate the diffusion of crafting skills and had mixed impacts on workers’ agency, as well as the transmission and development of accumulative and systematic knowledge in traditional craftsmanship.
A special contribution to this volume, ‘Renewing museum meanings and action with intangible cultural heritage’ by Michelle L. Stefano, discusses the benefits of prioritising intangible cultural heritage in museum work in the light of the development of a new International Council of Museums (ICOM) Museum Definition. The article reflects the values that have driven this process of redefinition and that museum professionals strive to espouse. Key concepts that have emerged during the process reiterate the importance of intangible cultural heritage – and ‘culture’ as encompassing ‘heritage, memory, and place’ – in constituting a main focus of museological activity. Emerging concepts signal the need for greater attention to ‘diversity’, ‘inclusivity’ and ‘community participation’ as features of what can be considered 21st-century, outward-facing and proactive museum practice.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the members of the IJIH Editorial Committee, external peer reviewers and the IJIH Secretariat for their contributions to this issue of the Journal. The critical responses and expertise demonstrated by all those who have participated in the multi-stage review process, and the diligence of the IJIH Secretariat are all highly appreciated.
Roslyn Russell, PhD