What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?

Intangible Cultural Heritage
The Tango, the preparation of Couscous, and Day of the Dead celebration are all examples of intangible cultural heritage.

Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) is becoming more and more important in today’s society. This type of heritage is often passed down from generation to generation and can include things like songs, dances, stories, cuisine, and much more. UNESCO is working hard to protect and promote ICH around the world, but there are still many misunderstandings about what it is. Let’s explore this further!

What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?

UNESCO describes intangible cultural heritage to be the practices, representations, and expressions that are part of any given culture. Intangibles such as oral traditions and expressions, traditional craftsmanship, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, and knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe fall into this category.

Camel racing in UAE and Oman is intangible cultural heritage
Camel racing in UAE and Oman is intangible cultural heritage.

One excellent example of intangible cultural heritage is the traditions surrounding food. Each culture has its unique cuisines and culinary methods that have been passed down through the generations. For example, the way Couscous is prepared and eaten in Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia is an intangible cultural heritage, as is the art of making a Neapolitan pizza in Italy. Many of these unique practices are passed from one generation and are tied to family traditions and shared with loved ones. Eating these dishes is a way to experience the culture firsthand.

Another example of intangible cultural heritage is music. Music can be enjoyed by people of all ages and cultures, and it often reflects the emotions and experiences of the people who created it. Both the Reggae music of Jamaica and the Marimba music of Colombia and Ecuador are on the list. Music brings people together and expresses feelings that words cannot express. Music, especially when combined with dance is a powerful tool that can connect people from all walks of life.

The full scope of intangible cultural heritage ranges from camel racing in Oman and the sauna culture in Finland to yoga in India and the custom of grass mowing in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The importance of intangible cultural heritage to society

Intangible cultural heritage plays a significant role in the development of every society. It helps to define a culture and pass traditions on from one generation to the next. These traditions are often tied to family values and shared with loved ones. They reflect the emotions and experiences of the people who created them. Music, dance, food, and other forms of intangible cultural heritage bring people together and help to build strong communities. It can also be a source of income for those who practice it and preserve it. In a rapidly globalizing world, it is more important than ever to recognize, protect and promote intangible cultural heritage.

Saunas in Finland are intangible cultural heritage
The culture of saunas in Finland are intangible cultural heritage.

UNESCO’s work to protect and promote intangible cultural heritage

UNESCO works hard to protect intangible cultural heritage around the world. They do this by working with local communities to help preserve and promote their traditions. UNESCO also creates documentation and databases of all the intangible cultural heritage around the world. This helps to recognize the importance of these traditions and ensures they can be shared with future generations.

Help preserve intangible cultural heritage

When you travel, you have the opportunity to experience different cultures firsthand. As you explore new places and meet new people, take time to learn about their traditions and customs. Try out local dishes and ask questions about how they are prepared and what they mean to the people who eat them. You can also visit local markets and talk to the vendors about the ingredients used in traditional recipes. Another great way to learn about intangible cultural heritage is by listening to music and learning the meaning behind it. Music often reflects the emotions and experiences of the people who created it. By learning more about a culture’s heritage, you are taking a step towards preserving it.

Hawker culture in Singapore.
Hawker culture in Singapore.

Intangible cultural heritage is an important aspect of every society. Culture and traditions are integral to identity, and these customs are often passed down through the generations. As the world gets smaller and more connected, it’s increasingly important to recognize and protect intangible cultural heritage. During your trips abroad take time to learn about the local customs and traditions. By doing this, you are helping to ensure the survival of our intangible cultural heritage.

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