The wishlist for our heritage
For any sovereign country, people hold the identity of the place, as well as the many defining practices that build its fabric of culture and tradition. Yet, somewhere along the line, maybe simply with the passage of time, or due to the dark side of globalisation, many of the heritage defining aspects disappear or worse, become convoluted beyond acceptance. This is where intangible cultural heritage needs to solidify its position.
UNESCO has not stopped at defining cultural heritage at monuments and documented history, the intangible heritage “includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants.”
As more and more countries are filing their intangible heritages, we too have a number of such elements that need a place on this ever-expanding list.
FOOD AND PREPARATIONS
Traditional Bakarkhani from Old Dhaka, Cham-cham from Porabari, Tangail, Rosh-malai from Comilla, as well as other local sweets can be introduced in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. All these food preparations have their own unique history are endemic to a specific region while being acknowledged across the country.
To keep things in perspective, French cuisine, Mediterranean diet, Ginger bread craft from Croatia are already included in the Representative List.
Baul song is already part of the list, but there are still more that can take place beside it. Bhatiali, Bhawaiya both can be considered as potential contenders to be included. Dhamail, the traditional marriage song of Sylhet, has its own position as essential regional culture. Bangladesh's folk music as a whole may occupy a place in the list.
Considering how Japan's many performance arts including Kabuki Theatre, traditional Ainu Dance and numerous others are part of the list, Bangladesh's folk music and performances should also be in the process of listing.
Currently Bangladesh has four Intangible Cultural Heritages on UNESCO's list– Baul song (2008), traditional art of Jamdani weaving (2013), Mongol Shobhajatra (2016), traditional art of Shitol Pati weaving of Sylhet (2017). As of now, April 2018, Rickshaw and rickshaw painting in Dhaka is in the process of being included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
But let us not forget that while pursuing high profile intangible heritage to be listed, we cannot look away from even the tiniest thing that makes us truly Bangladeshi. Also, this is not a race for which country has listed the most.
As this Baishkah approaches, let us all make a promise to ourselves to uphold all that truly makes us Bangladeshi while making us citizens of this beautiful blue planet.
For further reading, you can check out Ten Elements of The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Bangladesh published by Bangla Academy for an extended picture on the work being undertaken to list our potential heritages. Visit https://ich.unesco.org/en/lists for the all the intangible heritages listed so far.