Preserving Cultural Heritage: Traditions, Practices, Knowledge

The term "cultural heritage" has actually changed content considerably in recent decades, partly owing to the instruments established by UNESCO. Cultural heritage does not end at monoliths and collections of items. It likewise includes traditions or living expressions acquired from our forefathers and handed down to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, routines, joyful occasions, understanding and practices worrying nature and the universe or the knowledge and abilities to produce standard crafts.

While delicate, intangible cultural heritage is a crucial factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization.

An understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different neighborhoods aids with intercultural discussion, and encourages shared respect for other way of livings. The value of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself however rather the wealth of knowledge and abilities that is sent through it from one generation to the next. The social and financial value of this transmission of understanding matters for minority groups and for mainstream social groups within a State, and is as crucial for developing States when it comes to developed ones.

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Intangible cultural heritage is:

Traditional, modern and living at the exact same time: intangible cultural heritage does not just represent acquired customs from the past but also modern rural and metropolitan practices, in which varied cultural groups participate; Inclusive: we might share expressions of intangible cultural heritage that are comparable to those practiced by others. Whether they are from the neighboring town, from a city on the opposite side of the world, or have actually been adapted by individuals who have actually migrated and settled in a different region, they all are intangible cultural heritage.

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They add to social cohesion, motivating a sense of identity and obligation which helps individuals to feel part of one or different communities and to feel part of society at large; Agent: intangible cultural heritage is not merely valued as a cultural good, on a relative basis, for its exclusivity or its exceptional value.

It thrives on its basis in communities and depends on those whose knowledge of traditions, skills and customs are passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation, or to other communities; Community-based: intangible cultural heritage can only be heritage when it is recognized as such by the communities, groups or individuals that create, maintain and transmit it – without their recognition, nobody else can decide for them that a given expression or practice is their heritage. The oral traditions and expressions domain encompasses an enormous variety of spoken forms including proverbs, riddles, tales, nursery rhymes, legends, myths, epic songs and poems, charms, prayers, chants, songs, dramatic performances and more. Oral traditions and expressions are used to pass on knowledge, cultural and social values and collective memory.

They play a crucial part in keeping cultures alive. Some types of oral expression are common and can be used by entire communities while others are limited to particular social groups, only men or women, perhaps, or only the elderly. In many societies, performing oral traditions is a highly specialized occupation and the community holds professional performers in the highest regard as guardians of collective memory. Stories are a combination – differing from genre to genre, from context to context and from performer to performer – of reproduction, improvisation and creation. This combination makes them a vibrant and colorful form of expression, but also fragile, as their viability depends on an uninterrupted chain passing traditions from one generation of performers to the next.

Social practices, rituals and festive events are habitual activities that structure the lives of communities and groups and that are shared by and relevant to many of their members. They are significant because they reaffirm the identity of those who practice them as a group or a society and, whether performed in public or private, are closely linked to important events. Social, ritual and festive practices may help to mark the passing of the seasons, events in the agricultural calendar or the stages of a person’s life.

They are closely linked to a community’s worldview and perception of its own history and memory. They vary from small gatherings to large-scale social celebrations and commemorations. Social practices, rituals and festive events involve a dazzling variety of forms: worship rites; rites of passage; birth, wedding and funeral rituals; oaths of allegiance; traditional legal systems; traditional games and sports; kinship and ritual kinship ceremonies; settlement patterns; culinary traditions; seasonal ceremonies; practices specific to men or women only; hunting, fishing and gathering practices and many more.

Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe include knowledge, skills, practices and representations developed by communities by interacting with the natural environment. These ways of thinking about the universe are expressed through language, oral traditions, and feelings of attachment towards a place, memories, spirituality and worldview. They also strongly influence values and beliefs and underlie many social practices and cultural traditions. They, in turn, are shaped by the natural environment and the community’s wider world. This domain includes numerous areas, such as traditional ecological wisdom, indigenous knowledge, knowledge about local fauna and flora, traditional healing systems, rituals, beliefs, initiatory rites, cosmologies, shamanism, possession rites, social organizations, festivals, languages and visual arts.

Traditional knowledge and practices lie at the heart of a community’s culture and identity but are under serious threat from globalization. Even though some aspects of traditional knowledge, such as medicinal uses of local plant species, may be of interest to scientists and corporations, many traditional practices are nevertheless disappearing. Rapid urbanization and the extension of agricultural lands can have a marked effect on a community’s natural environment and their knowledge of it; clearing land may result in the disappearance of a sacred forest or the need to find an alternative source of wood for building.

Climate change, continued deforestation and the ongoing spread of deserts inevitably threaten many endangered species and results in the decline of traditional craftsmanship and herbal medicine as raw materials and plant species disappear. Safeguarding a worldview or system of beliefs is even more challenging than preserving a natural environment. Beyond the external challenges to the social and natural environment, many underprivileged or marginalized communities are themselves inclined to adopt a way of life or a purely economic development model, which are far from their own traditions and customs.

To be kept alive, intangible cultural heritage must be relevant to its community, continuously recreated and transmitted from one generation to another. There is a risk that certain elements of intangible cultural heritage could die out or disappear without help, but safeguarding does not mean fixing or freezing intangible cultural heritage in some pure or primordial form. Safeguarding intangible cultural heritage is about the transferring of knowledge, skills and meaning. Transmission, or communicating heritage from generation to generation, is emphasized in the Convention rather than the production of concrete manifestations such as dances, songs, musical instruments or crafts. Safeguarding measures to ensure that intangible cultural heritage can be transmitted from one generation to another are considerably different from those required for protecting tangible heritage (natural and cultural).


Updated: Dec 12, 2023
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Preserving Cultural Heritage: Traditions, Practices, Knowledge. (2017, Feb 03). Retrieved from

Preserving Cultural Heritage: Traditions, Practices, Knowledge essay
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