Decisión del Comité intergubernamental: 16.COM 8.b.38

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Sri Lanka has nominated Traditional craftsmanship of making Dumbara Rata Kalala (no. 01693) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Sri Lankan Dumbara Rata Kalala, or Dumbara mats, are traditional hand-made mats used as wall hangings, tapestries or cushion covers. The mats are made in two villages (Kalasirigama and Alokagama) by a community called kinnara that traditionally supplied ornamental mats to the royal palace as part of obligatory service to the crown and to ruling elites between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today, artisans weave the mats for local buyers and tourists. Dumbara mats are made with the fibres of the hana plant and decorated with symbolic motifs and designs. The plant fibres are separated by pressing the leaf against a log with a sharp-edged piece of wood to scrape away the fleshy parts. The fibres are then washed, sun-dried, combed and dyed using traditional herbal dyes made with natural materials from the Dumbara valley. The mat is created with a loom, and motifs and designs are added using a lath, a flat, narrow strip of wood with a hole at one end. The weaver inserts strands of fibre into the hole, then pulls the lath through the yarns on the loom to create the desired motif. Dumbara mats are a traditional item of great cultural significance for Sri Lankans, and the practice is transmitted from parents to children through observation and practice.

  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 harvesting of the agave vera plant and its preparation as fibre for weaving and ornamentation with culturally defined motifs and designs is practiced by both men and women who have specific and sometimes overlapping roles. It is largely done within family units and is transmitted from parents to children through observation and practice. Knowledge concerning the element is also shared between members of two villages during family gatherings, weddings, craft exhibitions and fairs. The inherited tradition is a source of pride among practitioners whose ancestors supplied Dambara Rata Kalala to the Royal Palace in the past. The practice also reinforces family bonds, including equal involvement of women in the element.

R.2:  At the local level, inscription will ensure greater awareness about the importance of the element and crafts in general and their role in the local economy and environment. It will attract youth from surrounding villages to learn the skills of the craft, while encouraging local and provincial authorities to support community projects that may help with the visibility of the element. At the national level, inscription would place the element at the center of the National Crafts Council’s (NCC) National Handicrafts Exhibition and Presidential Awards Ceremony, as well as draw attention to traditional craft as a whole. At the international level, inscription would promote awareness regarding sustainable use of natural resources and gender equality in the context of the element. Inscription would also improve dialogue among communities living in the region while promoting respect for cultural diversity through appreciation of the Buddhist or Hindu symbolic meanings of the element.

R.3:  The element has remained viable through the efforts of elders who have passed on the tradition and trained youth through the National Crafts Council. Efforts by the State have included purchasing Dambara Rata Kalala at higher prices to ensure its financial viability for the community as well as coordinating training programs for growing the Hana plant in wastelands and State-owned lands to ensure sufficient supplies. Proposed safeguarding measures include an extensive State apparatus to manage intangible cultural heritage, promote the transmission of the element, integrate knowledge of the element into the school curriculum, and protect traditional knowledge and cultural expressions. The communities were involved in the development of the safeguarding measures.

R.4:  The file demonstrates extensive community participation in the nomination process as well as their expression of concerns regarding the safeguarding of the element and its role in their sustained livelihood. Free, prior and informed consent was established. The historical restrictions on the transmission of the element outside of the community have been minimized as a result of intermarriage, which has facilitated continued transmission and allowed families to derive economic benefit from the element.

R.5:  The element is listed on the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage and is administered by the National Library and Documentation Services Board (NLDSB). It was inscribed in January 2020 and is updated every four years. Documentation began in 2015 with the identification of the element and continued through to 2020 when it was included on the National Inventory. The process of updating the file involves the preparation and administration of questionnaires pertaining to the domains of the various elements by cultural and development officers.

  1. Decides to inscribe Traditional craftsmanship of making Dumbara Rata Kalala on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for presenting a nomination file that demonstrates a strong awareness of the links between intangible cultural heritage and sustainable development and for its efforts to address the wellbeing and welfare of the community through proposed social security measures related to health and disability benefits;
  3. Encourages the State Party to pay attention to the potential risk of over-commercialization of the element and to ensure that safeguarding measures adequately address such risks.