Türkiye’s five new values have been inscribed to UNESCO’s UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. The announcement was made during the 18th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Kasane, Republic of Botswana, from 4 to 9 December 2023. With this inscription, the number of the country’s cultural elements inscribed on UNESCO Lists has risen to 30. Thus, Türkiye also became the second country on the lists with the most cultural values.
During the committee meeting, the “Traditional Olive Cultivation” was inscribed on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. “The Craftsmanship and Performing Art of Mey”, “The Craftsmanship of Mother of Pearl Inlay”, “Iftar and its Socio-Cultural Traditions”, and “The Art of Illumination” were inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
A Centuries-old Tradition: Olive Cultivation
The hardy and humble olive tree is one of the significant values of Türkiye, mainly when one explores the culture formed around its cultivation. Traditional olive cultivation in Türkiyemeans traditional knowledge, methods and practices transmitted for centuries about grafting, pruning, and fertilising “delice” (wild olive tree), picking and harvesting of olives, processing such as preserving and pickling table olives and extracting olive oil. It also has a vital role in keeping social and cultural identity alive because its bearers, especially in the rural areas, still produce olive and olive oil by traditional methods, which haven’t changed significantly for centuries till today.
Musical Tradition’s Sustainability
Mey (Balaban) is a woodwind instrument performed for centuries in Türkiye. The instrument, known for its unique sound and cultural significance in folk music, has been integral to cultural gatherings, weddings, celebrations, and festive occasions throughout history. Mey is also peformed in the aşık (minstrel) tradition and bards’ all-and-response duets. It has three different traditional sizes: “ana” (the largest), orta (middle) and cura (the smallest). Apart from the conventional sizes, various mey forms can be found in different tunes today. “The Craftsmanship and Performing Art of Mey/Balaban” was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on behalf of Türkiye and Azerbaijan.
Intricate Art of Mother of Pearl Inlay
The mother-of-pearl inlay, known as “sedef kakma” in Turkish, is an exquisite craft revered for its elegance and intricate beauty. This old technique involves the delicate embedding of luminescent mother of pearl into the slots opened in various forms on wooden structures. The traditional handicraft is applied in interior architectural elements, daily items like walking sticks, mirrors, clogs, frames, candle holders, combs, backgammon sets, tables, chairs, armchairs and souvenirs. The craftsmanship of mother-of-pearl inlay, creating stunning designs that shimmer with iridescence, has a rich history deeply rooted in Turkish culture and continues to reflect the mastery and taste of Anatolian people for centuries. “The Craftsmanship of Mother of Pearl Inlay” was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on behalf of the Türkiye and Azerbaijan.
Gilded Elegance: Timeless Art of Illumination
Illumination, called “Tezhip” in Turkish, is another decorative art commonly practised in Türkiye. This art, meaning “decoration with gold” in the most general sense, involves the intricate gilding of manuscripts, calligraphic texts and miniatures for centuries. Gold paint or leaf adds a lustrous sheen that catches and reflects light, enhancing the artwork’s allure. Conventional and contemporary interpretations of the element can be seen today in manuscripts, miniatures, calligraphy, and single papers. It is also used in architecture and decoration of household stuff. “The Art of Illumination” was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on behalf of Azerbaijan, Iran, Tajikistan, Türkiye and Uzbekistan. The element, transmitted from generation to generation for centuries, is an integral part of the cultural identity of the practitioners and the collective memory of wider communities within these submitting states.
A Socio-Cultural Tradition: Iftar
Many traditions specific to the holy month of Ramadan, in which fasting is performed, have been transmitted from generation to generation for centuries. Iftar, the evening meal to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan, is one such tradition with profound socio-cultural significance. While uniting families, friends, neighbours, and relatives in a shared experience, the iftar meal extends far beyond eating and embodies devotion, gratitude, generosity, and hospitality. “Iftar and its Socio-Cultural Traditions” were inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on behalf of Türkiye, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Iran.