The main body responsible for setting cultural policy and for safeguarding both contemporary and traditional culture is the Ministry of Education and Culture through its Cultural Services, including a special division of traditional culture. As far as specific activities concerning the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage are concerned, competencies are divided between, for example, the University of Cyprus for teaching relating to intangible cultural heritage, the Cultural Foundation for intercultural dialogue, and the Cultural Workshop (a non-governmental organization) for certain inventory-related, enhancement, promotion and revitalization activities. Community centres and associations play a vital role in supporting the transmission of intangible cultural heritage and informing the general public about its importance, including: youth councils, cultural centres, Cypriot diaspora associations, the Association of the Friends of the Cyprus Folk Art Museums and associations of practitioners of intangible cultural heritage.
Training for the management of intangible cultural heritage is provided by the Archaeological Research Unit within the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Cyprus. In addition to a Chair of Folk Art and Architecture, the Department offers training on topics such as traditional dress, professions and industries, handicrafts, architecture, customs and rituals. Also within the University of Cyprus, the Department of Social and Political Sciences offers an undergraduate degree in social sciences that includes courses in ethnography and ethnomusicology. Relevant training also takes place in: the Cyprus Handicraft Service of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism; the Department of Agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environment; and the Department of Town Planning and Housing of the Ministry of Interior.
The main documentation institutions include the Folklore Archive of the Cyprus Research Centre (CRC), established in 1962 for the collection and recording of Cypriot linguistic and folklore, and the Oral Tradition Archive (OTA) of the CRC which has operated since 1990, archiving oral materials. The Lefkara Folk Art Museum and the Historical Archive of Larnaka Municipality also house relevant collections.
As far as inventorying is concerned, a Register of elements of the intangible cultural heritage of Cyprus was established by experts at the Cyprus Research Centre (under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Culture) and is based on the CRC’s Oral Tradition Archive (materials collected between 1990 and 2010). Information was gathered through expeditions to communities and villages, interviews with individuals and groups (mostly elderly tradition bearers) and recordings of performances. The first volume of the Elements of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Cyprus was published in October 2012. Only surviving elements and living traditions are included and each entry takes into account the degree of viability of the element and its geographical distribution. Communities (and individual members) actively participated in collecting information for the Register, with the assistance of relevant non-governmental organizations. Further to this Register, the Ministry of Education and Culture is currently considering the creation of a National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Cyprus, which will involve broader participation on the part of communities and tradition bearers, both for the identification of elements of intangible cultural heritage and for their safeguarding. It will be developed in a format that enables regular updating and will be available to the public for consultation via a web-portal. The criteria set for inscription on the National Inventory correspond to the criteria defined in chapter I.2 of the Operational Directives of the 2003 Convention for inscription on the Representative List. Once it has been finalized and approved by the Council of Ministers, this Inventory will be managed by the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture, in collaboration with the Cyprus National Commission for UNESCO and experts on intangible cultural heritage in Cyprus.
As for measures to promote intangible cultural heritage and its function in society, the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture hold regular consultations with both communities and municipalities willing to cooperate in the safeguarding of their intangible cultural heritage and special funding schemes exist for those that submit an annual plan of cultural activities and funding requests. In Cyprus, intangible cultural heritage is regarded as a driver for community-level development and a pilot project was launched in 2012 in selected wine-villages of Limassol within the framework of a Council of Europe programme on heritage and regional development. It is coordinated by the Cyprus Town Planning Department with the Cultural Services and the Cyprus National Commission for UNESCO and is aimed, inter alia, at long-term social and economic development based on heritage enhancement and determining appropriate regional policies and decentralization mechanisms. Other measures to ensure the recognition of, respect for and enhancement of intangible cultural heritage include holding performances relating to intangible cultural heritage, and the Theatrical Workshop, which creatively adapts and stages selected oral traditions. Both public institutions and private stakeholders support the organization of symposia, training workshops and seminars for raising awareness of living heritage.
The Cyprus National Commission for UNESCO and the National Coordinator for the ASPnet focused on raising awareness about intangible cultural heritage in schools in 2011 and 2012, and the Ministry of Education and Culture encourages educational activities that promote the function of intangible cultural heritage in society and especially amongst the younger generations. Teachers are encouraged to use an approach that places Cypriot traditions within the larger context of the intangible cultural heritage of the Mediterranean and South-East Europe, to organize visits to living heritage museums or traditional craft workshops and to encourage their students’ artistic creativity using traditional methods and sources. The Cyprus Handicraft Service promotes the transmission of traditional skills and knowledge and the Ministry of Education and Culture offers classes on Cypriot cultural traditions within its lifelong learning programmes. The Limassol Folklore Association has cooperated with the Technical University of Cyprus to launch a training and capacity-building programme for teachers of traditional dance, who are themselves transmitters of intangible cultural heritage.
Cyprus is involved in bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, for example by participating in workshops with regional partners through OCARINA, the joint programme of countries of the European Union geared at fostering artists’ mobility, as well as through its participation in the annual workshops of the South-East European Experts’ Network of experts of intangible cultural heritage and category 2 centre in Sofia.
Cyprus has two elements inscribed on the Representative List: Lefkara laces or Lefkaritika (2009) and Tsiattista poetic duelling (2011). In both cases, inscription has brought pride to both individuals and communities involved and increased the current visibility of the elements. Importantly, it has also created an incentive for the younger generation to learn the skills involved and seek ways to integrate them into modern society. Safeguarding efforts are often community-driven actions with central and/or local government support, which are typically undertaken through a network of private and municipal museums, associations, and communal and private initiatives.