Intangible Cultural Heritage “Information and Awareness Raising Event”, Nestáni, Peloponnese 22/4/2017

Interview of the Director of DMCA&ICH to a journalist of the National Television Channel. On the left, a visual anthropologist was recording the event.

One day before the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’ (το εθίμου του Αγιώργη), the most important event of the year for the Nestánians, the Intangible Cultural Heritage “Information and Awareness Raising Event” took place at Nestáni, a village of 669 permanent residents (2011 National consensus). Despite the rainy and cold spring weather, the room that the event took place was crowded by the locals, politicians and the media (including press from the National television channel) (pictures 1 & 2).

The event was co-organised by the Directorate of Modern Cultural Assets and Intangible Cultural Heritage (DMCA&ICH) of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, The Administrative Region of Peloponnese, the Municipality of Tripolis, the Nestáni Progressive Association and the Nestáni Association for the Support of Local Customs and Research. The first aim of the event was “the presentation of the [2003] Convention for the Intangible Cultural Heritage and the possibilities that offer to the local communities for the study, safeguarding and the promotion of their ICH” (http://ayla.culture.gr/?p=757). As in most Information and Awareness Raising Events, Ms Villy Fotopoulou, the Director of DMCA&ICH, opened the floor and explained the 2003 Convention to the audience.

The second aim was the discussion and safeguarding of the annual ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’ and its potential inscription on the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory. In contrast to the last Information and Awareness Raising Event that conducted in Crete (https://frictions.hypotheses.org/349), in Nestáni the speakers were the local MPs, the presidents of the cultural associations, the priest and the president of the village and other political figures. All the speakers highlighted the importance of the inscription of the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’. Some of the speakers focused on the “amount of cultural heritage that exists in the village”, while others talked about the custom or how the village will be recognised by its inscription. When the speakers finished, the audience left satisfied discussing their ‘customs’ and the future inscription of the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’ on the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory.

The local priest

After the end of the event, some villagers stayed behind with representatives of one of the cultural associations which contribute on the organisation of the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’. A heated debate broke out arguing if a horse would participate in the Custom since it is a newer addition to it. Although the horse was added some years ago and no one opposed to it, that time the Custom would be recorded as part of an ethnographic documentary. Some of the villagers wanted to “preserve it in its authentic way, as it was done at the times of our mothers and grandfathers”. The rest of the villagers were arguing for the dynamic aspects of the tradition, but no agreement came between them. The convener of the discussion invited the representatives if the DMCA&ICH to give a solution. The representatives explained to the villagers that they have no right to decide for their traditions while they reinforce the idea that the traditions are dynamic and they are changing and evolve as time passes. The time passed, and the villagers left without knowing what would happen the next day. When the morning came, the ‘frictions’ continued, and the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’ took place with even more changes than the last year since the villagers tried to do their best to safeguard it against the others who had a different interpretation of safeguarding.

A brief video which shows parts of the ‘Custom of Ágios Nikólas’: https://youtu.be/7ARPXf2n8cw?t=2m13s