Safeguarding measures for the recognized ICH

By Morena Salama and Natalia Brayner

This panel will be held on June 21st , in Ouro Preto (Minas Gerais, Brazil) during the Seminar “ Intangible Cultural Heritage – impacts and repercussions from the recognition”, organized by IPHAN, The National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage. This seminar is part of the 50th Edition of Winter Festival of Ouro Preto. The panel will explore the implementation of safeguarding measures for intangible elements declared as national cultural heritage. Having in mind the measures carried out by IPHAN from 2004 to 2014, Salama will present the construction, application and the findings of the methodology for the evaluation and monitoring of the safeguarding processes set after an element is recognized as national cultural heritage.

For more information and the Seminar Programme (in Portuguese):

Making ICH in times of political turmoil

Boi de Guimarães [Ox of Guimarães]. Photo by Edgar Rocha, 2007. IPHAN’s archive.)

It is over a year now that the ex-president of Brazil, Dilma Rouseff, was substituted by her vice, Michel Temer, over a dubious process of impeachment that lead the country to fall into a deep political crisis. This instability affected enormously the implementation of cultural policies in the country, since one of the first actions taken by the new president was to extinct the Ministry of Culture. After being severely criticized by professionals of the artistic sector, who had big influence in the mainstream media, Temer backed down and recreated the Ministry of Culture. However, the ministers nominated by him didn’t stay in power longer than 6 months.

IPHAN, the Brazilian National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage, is linked to such ministry and also was affected by the political changes.  Temer nominated a new president  who belonged to the institution and who manage to stay in power dispite the successive changes of ministers. But the institution suffered a drastic cut in its annual budget. Because of that many processes for the safeguarding of ICH, including the researches for the recognition of intangible elements as National Cultural Heritage, have been suspended, waiting IPHAN to finally have financial means to carry on with their execution.

I started my fieldwork in this context of institutional precarity, just the day after the last minister of culture had renounced. My previous experience as UNESCO consultant for IPHAN, fortunately, helped me to have access to IPHAN´s authorities, internal procedures, decisions and data.

By returning to the institution after long period apart, my first impression was that its civil servants are carrying on with their daily duties, saying to themselves that they are not working for Temer, but for the protection of Brazilian cultural heritage in itself. For them, now more than ever, the Brazilian safeguarding policy is not a “government” policy, but rather a “state” policy. That is to say, a policy which is not subjected to governmental fluctuations.

On the other hand, there are IPHAN authorities, who were nominated with the ascension of Temer. As far as I can see, they are giving continuity to the programmes created by the previous governments, reinforcing such believe. The political changes was taken by these authorities as an opportunity to leave their mark on the institution and on the Brazilian heritage regime. A big challenge considering the budget cuts, the constant need to prove their legitimacy and efficiency as public authorities, and the fear that tomorrow a new governmental change might take place.

Since my first step in the institution I notice that the sensation of instability was dominant, making me to feel impelled to offer my help in order to have, at least, a case to follow.

The result was me getting in charge of setting up the nomination process of Bumba-Meu-Boi (Bumba My Ox) to the Representative List of the ICH Convention together with a civil servant from IPHAN’s local office. This considering that back in 2012, one year after the Boi became National Cultural Heritage, its community requested IPHAN to prepare such nomination. But, only now that the institution had the “political conditions” to proceed with it. According to the insitution, at that time, other elements were already on the queue and had the priority. Besides, in the Boi case, the focus should be on the implementation of a participative safeguarding process.

Surprisingly, in the same week an evidence that the political forces were coinciding in favour of the Boi nomination came through with the organization of two solemn session to pay tribute to the Bumba-Meu-Boi. One made by the local parliament of São Luis of Maranhão, and the other by the Congress in Brasília. In the last event IPHAN´s president announced the preparation of the nomination of the Bumba-Meu-Boi, opening the 2017 festivities of June, which traditionally in São Luis, and in many other parts of the country, are made with hundreds presentations of different types of Boi.

Folders with all the material produced for the National Registry of Bumba-Meu-Boi as Cultural Heritage. Salama, 2017

These coincidences help me to overcome the challenge of having a case to study in such context, but left me with another task: to work with and to reflect upon my double role as researcher and hands-on-heritage-maker.

While I am studying the documents produced for the national recognition of Boi as National Cultural Heritage (photo above), which in Brazil must precede the nominations to UNESCO’s Lists, I am asking myself how to prepare this nomination with the widest posible participation of  Boi communities – a requirement of the ICH Convention. Will the Boi communities want and thus be able to find consensus in order to answer all the questions of the nomination forms? Will they just focus on the discussion and drafting of a safeguarding plan?  Will they take a long time to do it? And the people involved, are they representative of all segments of the concerned communities? Will these different segments look for a unity or compete with each other? If so, will they diverge over which issues?

Considering this special political context, will this participative perspective benefit the political forces in place? Will it give them more legitimacy?

But then, vested with my other role, I ask myself if the above questions are only an assessment of the efficacy of the participative call of the ICH Convention? Or, if  they are just a reflection of my own understanding of community participation? In that case, is my view different from IPHAN and the Boi communities ones? If so which view will prevail in practice?

And what if Temer falls? Will IPHAN continue with this nomination ? If heritage-making is intrinsically political, is it possible to happen even when political forces are discredited and struggling to keep in power?


IPHAN’s head office decorated for  June Festivities. Diana Dianovsky, 2017

China’s Cultural and Natural Heritage Day

Since 2006, the second Saturday of June each year marks China’s Cultural Heritage Day. Since last year, following respective suggestions by the UNESCO Office Beijing, it goes under the name of “Cultural and Natural Heritage Day”. Two days ago, the Ministry of Culture held a press conference announcing the main theme, the slogans and events for this year’s “Cultural and Natural Heritage Day,” of which ICH turns out to be the major element. The main theme reads “ICH Safeguarding Practices: Transmission and Development Coming to Life” (非遗保护——传承发展的生动实践). The key slogans are “ICH Safeguarding: Promotion in everyday life, revitalisation in practice” (保护非遗——在生活中弘扬,在实践中振兴”), “Safeguarding and Transmitting ICH, Displaying Wisdom of Everyday Life” (“保护传承非遗,展现生活智慧”), “Living Communities, Living ICH (“活力社区,活态非遗”) and “Revitalising Chinese Traditional Arts and Crafts (“振兴中国传统工艺”). On the 10th of June, over 1700 events will simultaneously take place across the country, with the main one in Chengdu (Sichuan province) between June 10 and June 18. According to the official report, it will include a series of international ICH exhibitions, international conferences and forums (including an Open ended intergovernmental working group on developing an overall results framework for the Convention), ICH competitions and a series of activities involving traditional Chinese performing arts entering communities. The festival will focus on the “transmission and development of China’s excellent traditional culture, the revitalisation of traditional arts and crafts and the active mobilisation of the international and national community to widely participate in and comprehensively display the unique charm and safeguarding results of Intangible Cultural Heritage”.  On top of this, workshops, training sessions, forums and conferences will be held in all parts of the country. So, as the report promises, “at the time, all citizens will be able to participate in ICH activities not far from where they are”. Several TV stations will furthermore broadcast ICH related programs.

This year’s Heritage Day will possess the following special characteristics:

1. Implement the essence and spirit of a series of documents issued by the Central Government pertaining to the transmission and development of China’s excellent traditional culture and firmly propagating the notions on correct ICH safeguarding practices.

2. Focus on ICH practice and pay attention to the innovative transformation and creative development of excellent traditional culture.

3.Actively bundle all efforts and try everything to build a structure and stable system to propagate ICH safeguarding to society.

4. Actively create new and innovative forms of activities and work towards raising the attractiveness and influence of the Heritage Day.

Conference on “Agro-food Traditions as Cultural Heritage: Research, Safeguarding, Promotion” at the Agricultural University of Athens, Athens 19/05/2017

Last week,  the conference on  “Agro-food Traditions as Cultural Heritage: Research, Safeguarding, Promotion” took place at the Conference Lecture Theatre of the Agricultural University of Athens. The event was organised by the Directorate of Modern Cultural Assets and Intangible Cultural Heritage (DMCA&ICH) of the Ministry of Culture and Sport in collaboration with the Agricultural University of Athens. The conference attracted many local producers as well as academics and students (undergraduates and postgraduates) from the Department of Science of Nutrition and Dietetics (Harokopio University), MA in Folklore and Education of the Department of Primary Education (University of Athens), MA in Folklore Studies-Theory and Application of the Folk Culture of the School of Philosophy (University of Athens) and from the Agricultural University of Athens.

The slide reads: Pastoral festivities – Pig-slaughterhouses

The conference became a meeting point to bring closer academia, cultural administrators and decision makers relevant to Agro-food ICH (DMCA&ICH, the Ministry of Agriculture, and museums), producers and students. Most of the presentations highlighted Greek Agro-food products without showing how are they are also part of a local Intangible Cultural Heritage. However, this made the need for interdisciplinary collaboration apparent and it was discussed during the workshops that began after the end of the main presentations. During one of the parallel workshops entitled “Research and Promoting of the local Agro-food Traditions”, various successful collaborations of folklore researchers with agro-food scientists were presented. This acted as a guide for future successful collaborations and as a prime example of how agro-food Traditions can be understood as Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Workshop: “Presentation of European and Local Programmes and Policies that are related to the Promotion and the Funding of Proposals for the Recognition of the Agro-food Traditions as Intangible Cultural Heritage”

The other parallel workshop was entitled “Presentation of European and Local Programmes and Policies that are related to the Promotion and the Funding of Proposals for the Recognition of the Agro-food Traditions as Intangible Cultural Heritage”. The centre of the discussions was the possibilities and the procedures that entrepreneurs and organisations have to follow in order to attain funding successfully. However, funding and sustainability were topics that were discussed or mentioned numerously in the conference and not only to this workshop since it was one of the main concerns of the audience.At the end of the conference, representatives of the DMCA&ICH made an open call towards the audience: “we would like to give an opportunity to the students and other specialised scientists to become Cultural Brokers {mentioned both in English and in Greek}” between the holders of Agro-food Traditions and the policy makers. They also explained that their intention “is to open the field of folklore to the public (δημόσια Λαογραφία)” and they are keen to support every individual or organisation that is interested in engaging in the field of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The complete programme of the conference (in Greek) can be found on the website of the DMCA&ICH:

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” ( 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 (, 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’: