Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.27

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Saudi Arabia has nominated Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, female traditional interior wall decoration in Asir, Saudi Arabia (No. 01261) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, a traditionally female interior wall decoration, is an ancient art form considered as a key element of the identity of the region of Asir. It is a spontaneous art technique carried out largely by women today in the community that involves decorating the interior walls of their houses, specifically rooms for visiting guests. Women invite female relatives of various age groups to help them in their homes, thereby transmitting this knowledge from generation to generation. The base is usually white gypsum and the patterns consist of icons of geometric shapes and symbols. In the past, only women practised the element, but nowadays male and female artists, designers, interior designers and architects practise it, including on other surfaces. The art enhances social bonding and solidarity among the community and has a therapeutic effect on its practitioners. The application of the art in most households ensures its viability within the community, and local individuals have created galleries within their houses in order to safeguard it. Observation and practice are the key methods for transmitting the practice from one generation to the next, and societies, non-governmental organizations and individuals all play a key role in safeguarding, promoting and transmitting the related knowledge and skills.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Al-Qatt Al-Asiri is a spontaneous art technique, initially performed by women. The element reflects the aesthetic traditions and local understanding of the natural and cultural symbols of Saudi Arabians through a traditional form of interior decoration. The way in which the walls are decorated also reflects the taste of the lady of the house and represents a sense of pride for the owner. The element has a therapeutic effect on the practitioner, as it provides a sense of comfort, serenity and inner peace, away from the stresses of daily life. It is transmitted within the community from generation to generation. The art is considered as a key element in the identity of Asir and enhances social bonding and solidarity among the female community in the region. As an artistic expression, the element is a sign of appreciation for guests. The practice demonstrates respect for women’s rights of expression, and has also become a way of earning money, with artists offering their skills to other families.

R.2    At the local, national and international level, the inscription can raise awareness about the values of traditional crafts that nowadays incorporate modern techniques and can encourage the development of creative skills. The nomination describes how the inscription of the element would contribute to raising the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general. The inscription will enhance the visibility of the element, its contribution to dialogue and mutual respect, within the community and beyond.

R.3:   Wide community and public actions are carried out to enhance the status and viability of Al-Qatt. The viability of the element is ensured through its transmission within families and training courses, its application in households, contemporary interpretations in numerous public locations, research, inventorying, documentation and awareness-raising activities, legal protection and the establishment of a center for world cultures. Despite financial constraints, various governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations have dedicated budgets to implementing programmes aimed at safeguarding and raising awareness about Al-Qatt. Community members, especially Al-Qatt artists, play a key role in planning and implementing the proposed safeguarding measures. The State provides administrative and financial support. Strong family traditions benefit from the safeguarding of the element. Activities aimed at improving the market prospects of the products are also proposed, thereby enhancing the contribution of the practice to the livelihood of its practitioners.

R.4:   The initiative for the nomination came from the bearers of Al-Qatt and related information was first disseminated by the media. A workshop on community-based inventorying held in 2016 instigated the process, leading to the nomination. The Asiri community, the bearers and practitioners of the element (female artists, visual artists and the individuals concerned), governmental sectors, non-governmental organizations, various societies and researchers were heavily involved in all stages of the preparation of this nomination and provided their free, prior and informed consent. Nowadays, Al-Qatt is displayed in various public locations and is not limited to living rooms inside houses. There are no customary practices governing access to the element.

R.5:   The element was included in the Intangible Heritage of Saudi Arabia Inventory (IHSAI) in 2016. The inventory was drawn up with the active participation of the communities concerned, researchers, non-governmental organizations and government representatives. Every year, new elements are added to the IHSAI and the inventory is regularly updated every five years. The Ministry of Culture is responsible for maintaining and updating the inventory.

  1. Inscribes Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, female traditional interior wall decoration in Asir, Saudi Arabia on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Invites the State Party to avoid measures such as granting licenses for practitioners, which may limit community access to the practice of intangible cultural heritage and would therefore not be in the spirit of the Convention;
  3. Thanks the Delegation of Saudi Arabia for the clarifications provided to the Committee on the information included in the file concerning criterion R.2.