Dancing devils, Armenian poem vie for UNESCO label

Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:08pm EST
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By Vicky Buffery

PARIS (Reuters) - An array of little-known and sometimes outlandish traditions vie for international recognition when the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO meets next week to select new additions to its world heritage list.

Venezuelan Dancing Devils and the Armenian epic poem "Daredevils of Sassoun" are among the more exotic contenders for a spot on the intangible heritage list, created in 2003 to safeguard the world's art forms and cultural rituals.

Some 51 contenders are hoping for recognition this year from the Paris-based U.N. organization for Education, Science and Culture, from hat-weaving to folk-singing, embroidery and falconry.

The tiny southern African kingdom of Lesotho hopes to win a spot in the U.N. ranks for "Letsema" - its pragmatic tradition of "getting together to accomplish heavy tasks". Such tasks, it says, can include collecting stones or threshing wheat while others sing, read recite poetry or ululate.

Mongolia, having learned selection was unlikely, withdrew one entry - knuckle-bone shooting, an activity where people flick marbles at polished sheep ankle bones while singing "Hail you, friend" to each other.

Contenders will be assessed from December 3 to 7, with winners announced at the end of each day.

"If a country has a particular way of laying a table for Christmas dinner, dressing for a wedding, or celebrating an historical event, then that's an intangible act," said Cecile Duvelle, Secretary of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

"Our aim is to help countries keep these traditions alive and ensure they are passed on through generations to maintain a common sense of identity," she said.   Continued...