Traditional Korean wrestling wins cultural heritage status

For one week the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage will be holding their annual meeting on Mauritius to decide which traditional knowledge and skills should be added to the worldwide list.

North and South Korea, two nations still technically at war, for the first time combined forces to list with the UN a type of traditional wrestling, known in the north as ‘ssirum’ or ‘ssireum’ in the south, in further sign of rapprochement.

In addition to North and South Korea, Germany is also involved with a multinational application: Blaudruck, or indigo dying with block printing, is a craft that only a few skilled trades in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany still cultivate.

Blaudruck aus der Niederlausitz (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Pleul)

Germany’s application: Blaudruck

This printing art from the 16th century ennobles an indigo blue fabric with typical white patterns in the form of tendrils, flowers and ornaments. 

Almost 50 cultural forms have been nominated, including perfume art from France, reggae music from Jamaica and Khon Mask Dance from Thailand.

The Intangible Cultural Heritage List has been in existence since 2003 and pays tribute to traditional human knowledge and skills. It now includes more than 400 customs, performing arts, handicraft techniques and natural history from all over the world. These include rumba dancing from Cuba, traditional Chinese medicine or violin making from the Italian town of Cremona. The aim of the award is to preserve the living cultural heritage.

A total of more than 175 states have ratified the UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Germany has been a signatory state since 2013 and is currently represented with three entries: Organ building and music, falconry and the idea and practice of organizing shared interests in cooperatives. There is now a chance that blueprinting will add another German tradition to the list this week.