Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.4

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Bangladesh has nominated Traditional art of Shital Pati weaving of Sylhet (No. 01112) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Shital Pati is the traditional art of making a handcrafted mat by weaving together strips of a green cane known as ‘Murta’. The mat is used by people all over Bangladesh as a sitting mat, bedspread or prayer mat. The main bearers and practitioners are weavers living mostly in the low-lying villages in the greater Sylhet region of Bangladesh, but there are also pockets of Shital Pati weavers in other areas of the country. Both men and women participate in collecting and processing Murta, with women being more involved in the weaving process. The craft is a major source of livelihood and a strong marker of identity; primarily a family-based craft, it helps to reinforce family bonding and create a harmonious social atmosphere. Mastery of the technique commands social prestige, and the practice empowers underprivileged communities, including women. The government promotes awareness of the element through local and national craft fairs, and Shital Pati communities are increasingly being organized into cooperatives to ensure the efficient safeguarding and transmission of the craft and guarantee its profitability. Safeguarding efforts involve the direct participation of the communities concerned and the practice is primarily transmitted from generation to generation within the families of craftspeople.

  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 weaving of mats constitutes an element of intangible cultural heritage practised by several communities in Bangladesh, notably in the northeastern part of the country. The mats feature motifs such as natural and religious symbols. The tradition of Shital Pati weaving is transmitted informally within the extended families of the craftspeople, thereby ensuring the continuity of the craft from generation to generation. Furthermore, the element holds a strongly recognizable value for the communities concerned. This craftmanship is fully compatible with principles of bio-diversity and sustainable development.

R.2:   The inscription of the element would increase the visibility of the role of traditional knowledge and craftsmanship in contemporary society. would also contribute to the interethnic and interreligious sharing of practices and products, as well as to intergenerational dialogue among the practitioner communities, as children would be further motivated to practise the traditional crafts of their ancestors and to continue family traditions. The design and motifs of Shital Pati have influenced many other types of mats and quilts, thereby testifying to its impact on human creativity.

R.3:   The safeguarding measures described include research, inventorying, documentation, promotion and awareness-raising activities, as well as following up on the impact of the possible inscription of the element. With the decline of the caste system, the craft has been particularly strengthened. The community has ensured the continuity and transmission of the practice by diversifying the products and designs, and the traditional mats have been recreated to meet the diverse uses and tastes of a wider range of communities and markets. The Ministry of Land allowed the community to grow the Murta plant on government-owned land without paying tax or rent and is currently examining a proposal for the long-term allotment of government-owned land to Shital Pati weavers. The community also made use of the formal banking system and began to receive small loans from state-owned commercial banks. Moreover, almost all the areas that produce Shital Pati have been brought under an extensive road network as part of the government’s scheme to connect rural growth centers to ensure the viability of the element.

R.4:   The preparation of the nomination was organized by the Ministry of Culture and involved the widest possible participation of the communities concerned as well as experts and non-governmental organizations. District cultural officers acted as mediators between the government and the communities concerned. Free, prior and informed consent letters were received from the communities and groups concerned as well as from representatives of relevant non-governmental organizations and local government. There are no customary practices restricting access to Shital Pati weaving.

R.5:   In 2007, at the request of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh, Shital Pati was included in an inventory under the section of Living Traditions in the eleventh volume of a survey conducted by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. The element has been included in the inventory, which is updated on an ongoing basis. The Intangible Cultural Heritage National Committee is responsible for maintaining and updating the intangible cultural heritage inventory.

  1. Inscribes Traditional art of Shital Pati weaving of Sylhet on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Encourages the State Party to monitor the impacts of the increased visibility of the element as well as to mitigate any adverse impacts relating to its commercialization.