PARIS (Reuters Life!) - The perilous blade-twirling of Peru’s scissors dance, Turkey’s slippery art of oil-wrestling and Luxembourg’s more prosaic annual hopping procession are some of the more obscure cultural traditions vying for a place on UNESCO’s intangible world heritage list.
The U.N. culture and education agency is meeting in Nairobi this week to consider 51 new candidates for its intangible heritage list, started in 2003 to preserve the world’s art forms and traditions from the onslaught of globalization.
Among more familiar offerings up for consideration are the ritual of the French gastronomic meal, the music and dance of Spanish Flamenco, Mexican cuisine as well as Chinese acupuncture and traditional medicine.
“The aim is to safeguard the expressions of intangible cultural heritage that are endangered because of the processes of globalization,” said Cecile Duvelle, Secretary of the Convention for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage.
“The young generation is very much targeted with this list because they’re the ones that are going to ensure the vitality and transmission of these elements to the next generations.”
Better-known for its work protecting world monuments and natural wonders, UNESCO has recently started to recognize elements of living heritage, such as language, in a bid to protect cultural diversity and foster a sense of community.
Traditions such as Mongolian folk-dancing, the Tango from Argentina and Croatian lace-making now rank alongside the Great Barrier Reef and the Acropolis in Athens on the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s lists.
Among this year’s candidates, Turkey’s 648-year-old Kirkpinar oil-wrestling festival, which once a year sees dozens of men daubed with cooking oil-grappling in a field to win a coveted golden belt, is said by its promoters to foster dialogue and social harmony.
Luxembourg has submitted a centuries-old religious ritual based in the eastern border village of Echternach, where thousands of dancers linked by a chain of handkerchiefs perform a hopping procession through the streets.
Meanwhile, scissor-dancing from Peru’s Chanka region, with its complex acrobatics, is rooted in the 16th century, when locals supposedly possessed by deities performed frenetic dances to express their resistance to the Spanish conquest.
Performers dance to traditional folk music brandishing oversized scissors which they snip and twirl in the air.
“This dance...expresses the continuity of an ancestral vision of the world that is transmitted and redefined by the Chanka population,” Peru’s national cultural institute said in its submission document.
Editing by Paul Casciato