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kurodani-papermaker5
 
Papermaker couching a sheet of kozo (mulberry) paper at Kurodani papermaking village, Japan. Image credit Littlestone.
 
The Intangible Cultural Heritage convention drawn up by UNESCO http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?pg=home  is a way of holding on to that which is indefinable in the many cultures that exist around the world. Some of the things it covers include; oral traditions and expressions (language included), performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, and perhaps, more interestingly, knowledge of practice concerning the nature of the universe.
 
It is a shadowy gathering together of the rich cultural heritage that indigenous people all around the world carry forward from their past history. 107 countries have signed up to the convention, sadly the United Kingdom is not one of them. Of course we protect our heritage in the form of buildings and archaeological sites, but many customs and rituals, though still upheld by local villagers and townspeople do not have any formal state of record. We are so busy pushing forward into our modern world, that our ‘heritage’ is little more than a tourist attraction to overseas visitors.
 
One aspect not often thought of is traditional craft, does it exist you may ask? perhaps not in the true historical form of past centuries, but woodworking, blacksmithing, pottery making, weaving and dyeing still goes on. For instance in Britain, we have traditional stone walls, cob wall building and thatching to add to the list, skills that need carrying on into the future
 
In Japan there is the interesting concept of ‘living treasures’ whereby old craft skills such as papermaking, weaving and dyeing of traditional materials, and pottery making by local craftsmen are supported and given official status by the Japanese government, here for instance, we see http://www.e-yakimono.net/html/living-natl-treasures.htm, the idea in force with the designation of certain potters as Important intangible Cultural Properties.
 
Perhaps the reconstruction of early bronze and iron age houses may also come under this heading, Butser farm in Hampshire has been around for at least 20 years, experimenting and creating a past way of life by growing the cereal crops, herbs and using ‘primitive’ type sheep and cattle to explore the life of past prehistoric people.

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