Ministry of Culture nominates candidates for UNESCO list

Modrotisk, photo: Zdeňka Kuchyňová

Craftsmen producing glass Christmas ornaments and resist block printing, who were nominated last year, are eagerly awaiting the decision of a special UNESCO committee that is to decide whether they will have the honour of being listed on its Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Meanwhile the country’s beer barrel coopers, bagpipers and chenille fabric producers are hoping to be nominated in the future.

Modrotisk,  photo: Zdeňka Kuchyňová
Representatives of various folk traditions across the world are eagerly awaiting this year’s meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which will take place in Port-Louis, Mauritius, during the last week of November.

This year the committee will also be deciding whether to add two crafts which have a distinct place in Czech culture. One of them is the so called tradition of ‘Modrotisk‘, an art of resist block printing and indigo dyeing in central Europe.

Jiří Danzinger represents a family business that has been active in this art of printing since the early 19th century.

“Well of course it would be a great honour for the craft. It is also a matter of prestige and could perhaps improve sales and the general production situation. But most importantly the tradition would be continued.“

Resist block printing and indigo dyeing has been nominated as a region wide craft, including the states of Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia. Meanwhile, the other nominee, a craft specialising in Christmas tree decorations from blown glass beads, is classified as a characteristically northern Bohemian tradition.

A special council within the ministry has already come up with four suggestions for future applications. These include beer barrel coopers, chenille fabric producers, a special southern Moravian art of patterned fabric weaving and the Czech bagpiping tradition.

Ethnographer Irena Novotná comes from the south Bohemian region of Strakonice, the heart of bagpipe culture in the Czech Republic and was one of the experts who helped prepare the bagpiping application.

Bagpipes,  photo: Jaromír Marek / Czech Radio
“We cooperated with the South Bohemian Museum in České Budějovice. We prepared the papers on south Bohemian culture and bagpipe traditions and the South Bohemian Museum then cooperated with the Ministry of Culture. The main propagator of this project was the Museum in Strážnice which works on this thing.”

The Czech Ministry of Culture and the National Institute of Folk Culture help with the application process. The ministry’s UNESCO department head, Dita Limová, says that focus is made to ensure the tradition bearers themselves always remain at the centre of any application process.

Dita Limová says that representatives of folk traditions and crafts can also apply for membership of the ministry’s ‘national list’, whose members are actively supported.

“Of course you need to have some safeguarding measures for these elements and be aware of things like tourist interest, which can sometimes completely change the element from its primary function, turning it into a mere attraction. That is something we do not want, so we really try to help these bearers to keep that element alive.”