Decisión del Comité intergubernamental: 16.COM 8.b.35

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen have nominated Arabic calligraphy: knowledge, skills and practices (no. 01718) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Arabic calligraphy is the artistic practice of handwriting Arabic script in a fluid manner to convey harmony, grace and beauty. The practice, which can be passed down through formal and informal education, uses the twenty-eight letters of the Arabic alphabet, written in cursive, from right to left. Originally intended to make writing clear and legible, it gradually became an Islamic Arab art for traditional and modern works. The fluidity of Arabic script offers infinite possibilities, even within a single word, as letters can be stretched and transformed in numerous ways to create different motifs. Traditional techniques use natural materials, such as reeds and bamboo stems for the qalam, or writing instrument. A mixture of honey, black soot and saffron is used for the ink, and the paper is handmade and treated with starch, egg white and alum. Modern calligraphy commonly uses markers and synthetic paint, and spray paint is used for calligraffiti on walls, signs and buildings. Artisans and designers also use Arabic calligraphy for artistic enhancement, such as for marble and wood carving, embroidery and metal etching. Arabic calligraphy is widespread in Arab and non-Arab countries and is practised by men and women of all ages. Skills are transmitted informally or through formal schools or apprenticeships.

  1. Considers 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 concerns the art of writing Arabic script and uses cursive, which can support different geometric shapes and compositions. The element can be applied in a wide range of decorative mediums, including on paper, wood, metals and other objects, as well as on sacred books, places of worship, palaces, tombstones, jewellery, clothing and furniture. The bearers are men and women who function as masters, professional calligraphers, artists, designers, professors, teachers, trainers and artisans. Women are generally involved in arts and teaching. Knowledge and skills are transmitted in formal and informal ways. The element serves as a symbol of Arab Muslim identity and for transmitting religious culture and values and thus has an educational function. It is also a source of income for practitioners and their families. It does not contravene international human rights instruments, but rather promotes social cohesion and contributes to sustainable development.

R.2:  Inscription would contribute to the promotion of the element and of intangible cultural heritage in general, including increased awareness among youth. The increased interest by the national media will also contribute to its visibility. The joint nomination by the submitting States Parties is already a step towards regional cooperation and exchange and adds to visibility at the international level. Participation in festivals, competitions, seminars and forums will encourage dialogue. Inscription would also highlight the creative styles of its bearers and practitioners.

R.3:  The nomination file demonstrates that the communities and individuals concerned are involved in a continuous collective effort that includes a series of safeguarding measures to ensure the viability of the element through transmission, documentation and research, and promotion. States Parties support such efforts financially and through other initiatives. A number of measures, such as transmission, research, promotion and preservation, are proposed to ensure the continued viability of the element with the participation of communities, groups and individuals. The nomination file identified the support of each State Party to the proposed safeguarding measures. The bearers participated and contributed their deep knowledge of Arabic Calligraphy to define safeguarding measures in each submitting State.

R.4:  The nomination file outlines the mechanism for its preparation and finalization involving all sixteen submitting States Parties. The file was prepared through several stages including identification of practitioners, development of safeguarding measures, preparation of audio-visual materials, updating of the inventories, preparation of the nomination file in each country and preparation of the final nomination. The file establishes the free and informed consent from associations, non-governmental organizations and the element’s practitioners. There are no customary practices that prevent accessing the element; it is available to the public and to all interested people.

R.5:  The element is included in various inventories and registers of the submitting States, all of which are administered by the respective Ministries, Archives or Departments of Culture or Heritage. The element was included in these inventories between 2018 and 2020. The file suggests two approaches were used to identify and define the element, namely: inventorying programmes or organized meetings. Inventories are updated by each submitting State at periods ranging from two to five years and in collaboration with authorities in each State and in the concerned communities.

  1. Decides to inscribe Arabic calligraphy: knowledge, skills and practices on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the sixteen submitting States Parties on their cooperation in the preparation of the nomination file;
  3. Encourages the State Party to share safeguarding experiences with other States Parties with similar elements.