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55 cultural practices added to UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Opening night at La Scala theater, in Milan Italy, Thursday Dec. 7, 2023. The tradition of Italian opera singing is among the 55 cultural practices to be inscribed to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List this year.
Luca Bruno
/
AP
Opening night at La Scala theater, in Milan Italy, Thursday Dec. 7, 2023. The tradition of Italian opera singing is among the 55 cultural practices to be inscribed to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List this year.

The U.N.'s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has added 55 new inscriptions to itsIntangible Cultural Heritage List for 2023, in an effort to safeguard traditional art, dance, food, craftmanship and rites of passage.

The cultural practices include Italian opera singing, rickshaws and rickshaw painting in Bangladesh, and ceviche — citrus marinated fish and shellfish — a cornerstone of Peruvian traditional cuisine. More than 70 countries put forward nominations at UNESCO's annual Intergovernmental Intangible Heritage Committee meeting held in Kasane, Botswana, this week.

Six cultural practices were added to the list because they need urgent safeguarding, such as Mek Mulung. The Malaysian theater tradition shares legends through dialogue, song and dance. Popular since the 18th century, it is now in danger of dying out.

Other cultural practices in need of urgent safeguarding include Syrian glassblowing, olive cultivation in Turkey, the wedding dish of Xeedho in Djibouti, Ingoma Ya Mapiko, a celebratory dance tradition practiced by the Makonde people of Mozambique, and the Poncho Para'í de 60 Listas de Piribebuy, a handmade garment from Paraguay.

With these new additions, UNESCO's living heritage list now includes 730 cultural practices spread across 145 countries.

Over the past 20 years since its inception, UNESCO has financed more than 140 safeguarding projects across the world, totaling around $12 million.

"This convention is a powerful tool for safeguarding cultural diversity and local identities in the context of globalization," said UNESCO's Director General, Audrey Azoulay, in a statement, adding the importance of thinking beyond buildings and other physical landmarks when it comes to protecting the world's cultural heritage. "It is no longer just a matter of monuments, sites or stones. The convention recognizes that heritage is also alive - that it can be sung, written, listened to and touched. Each of us carries a part of this heritage in us, and protects it."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.