Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.31

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Switzerland has nominated Basel Carnival (No. 01262) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Beginning on the Monday following Ash Wednesday and lasting exactly 72 hours, Basel Carnival is the largest carnival in Switzerland. Two parades take place on the Monday and Wednesday, bringing together 11,000 costumed carnivalists in parades of fife and drum cliques, floats and carriages. Tuesday is dedicated to children, with concerts and lantern exhibitions, while other events also punctuate the festival. The carnival can be compared to a huge satirical magazine where all visual or rhetorical means are used to make fun of flaws and blunders. Around 20,000 people of any age, social status, origin and political persuasion actively participate in the festival, which attracts around 200,000 Swiss and foreign visitors. The bearers and practitioners form associations of different types, composed equally of men and women. The carnival contributes to social cohesion, promotes tolerance through social criticism and helps safeguard the local dialect. Transmission occurs informally in families taking part for several generations. The ‘cliques’ also play an important role in this regard, with several having a section dedicated to encouraging the next generation. Several pre-carnival events are also organized, allowing for transmission beyond the carnival. The carnival has been successfully safeguarded over past decades thanks to measures taken by the communities as well as the authorities’ constant support.

  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:   The element displays various aspects of cultural tradition such as performances of fifes, drums and verses, and the creation and presentation of masks, lanterns and costumes. The Carnival Committee manages most of the participating groups through the services of volunteers. The element is inclusive of all people regardless of their gender, age and class and allows for freedom of speech. It is passed on from generation to generation within family circles, through cliques and using formal education methods. The file indicates that the Basel Carnival contributes to social cohesion, promotes tolerance through social criticism and contributes to safeguarding the local dialect and promoting cultural creation. The carnival reinforces mutual understanding among participants through satirical performances, which are an integral part of the celebration. It is considered as an excellent means of integrating new inhabitants of the city.

R.2:   The inscription of the element would raise the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in Switzerland and internationally, especially in urban areas. It would also act as a reminder of the role of language as a vector of intangible cultural heritage. The constant introduction of new satirical topics and carnival outfits testifies to the element’s contribution to human creativity and cultural diversity, as does the know-how linked to the traditional craftsmanship involved. The carnival is in itself a place of dialogue and exchange. It is a festive moment that creates a sense of equality among all the participants, because social classes mix together and many cultural and other barriers fall down during the event. Its practitioners are invited to participate in other carnivals and festivals across the country and abroad.

R.3:   The file describes past and current safeguarding efforts made by the community over the past decades, with the authorities’ constant support. These concern, primarily: measures to encourage the next generation to engage in the related practices, such as fife and drum playing; training (in particular through the mentoring system) as well as evaluating the quality of the topics presented during the carnival. The viability of the carnival is ensured by the activities of over 1,000 carnival societies. Museums and schools run the respective programmes throughout the year. Through the Basel-City (Bâle-Ville) canton and the Basel municipality, the State Party strongly supports the event and ensures that the Carnival Committee’s website is constantly updated. The proposed safeguarding measures encompass the transmission of the element, the adjustment of infrastructure and legislation at different administrative levels, preservation and protection, research, documentation, publishing and awareness-raising activities. The Carnival Committee plays an important role in perpetuating the existing measures, and the Basel tourism office offers training for the carnival guides.

R.4:   Since 2011, the Carnival Committee has participated in the process of inventorying the Basel Carnival. Based on that activity, the nomination of the Basel Carnival to the Representative List was also proposed. In 2015, the Carnival Committee presented the proposal for the nomination to the representatives of the 222 carnival societies. The latter supported the nomination and formed a steering committee to work on the file. The file presents personalized letters expressing free, prior and informed consent to the nomination. A wide array of consents is available both in terms of quantity and quality.

R.5:   The element was included in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012. The inventory was drawn up with the participation of the communities and groups concerned, involving representatives of the regions, experts and non-governmental organizations active in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. The Federal Office of Culture coordinates the updating of the inventory in partnership with the twenty-six cantons. The updating process, which involves the widespread participation of the communities, began in 2016 and will end in 2018.

  1. Inscribes Basel Carnival on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for submitting an exemplary nomination.