Aigine CRC’s participation in the 10th Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

From November 30 until December 5, 2015, the director of Aigine CRC, Gulnara Aitpaeva, and a representative from the National Commission of UNESCO, Sabira Soltongeldieva, participated in the 10thIntergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Windhoek, Namibia.

On December 2, 2015, the focus was on two cultural practices presented by Kyrgyzstan to be included on the Representative List of UNESCO. The first element was “Aitysh/Aitys- the art of improvisation”, which was established and introduced together with Kazakhstan. It received the full support from the Evaluation Committee and was added to the List.

In response, Mrs. Aitpaeva thanked the Committee for their support and stressed that the successful joint bid from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan once again underlines the affinity of our peoples, opposing the ideas of national and cultural superiority.

The second element of Kyrgyz culture, “Kok Boru- traditional horse game”, did not receive the full approval from the Evaluation Committee. The Committee felt that Kok Boru carries health risks for humans and horses involved, and also criticized the use of a goat carcass for the purpose of a contest. All of this, according to the Committee, as valuable as it is in national context, can be traumatic to the sensitivities of other societies on an international level. The Committee suggested for Kyrgyzstan to modify certain provisions of the proposal and resubmit Kok Boru for examination in a following cycle.

In response to the Committee’s opinion, G. Aitpaeva expressed her concern over the methodology for considering applications. She emphasized that cultural heritage is not born today but inherited from the past. In the past, everything was different; hence there were different cultural standards and different types and levels of sensitivity. If the mission of the Representative List is to reflect all the riches of functioning Cultural Heritage, the UNESCO Member States should take into account the various standards and somehow harmonize them. Otherwise, countries, in an effort to make their elements onto the List, will offer “conflict-free” elements of the same type.  Given that this is the second application with animals that has not received approval in the past two years, G. Aitpaeva suggested to the Secretariat to begin working in this direction. Otherwise it would be difficult to avoid feeling that one culture imposes their standards on others.