Al-Azi included in UNESCO list of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding’

ABU DHABI, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, has added the traditional UAE performance art of Al-Azi onto the list of 'Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding'.

The decision was taken during the 12th meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is currently being held on Jeju Island in South Korea and closes on 9th December.

Al-Azi is a significant and important cultural heritage performance reflecting UAE culture and Emirati society. The art of Al-Azi depends on the repetition of poems without music or rhythmic instruments. It is practised at national and social events to instil pride, loyalty and national values. It also praises the traditions of welcoming and honouring achievement. The performance focuses on the singer and the supporting reciters who give him answers that emphasise his words. Reciters stand in lines behind the lead performer in a symbolic scene of unity and solidarity.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, said, "Al-Azi's inclusion in UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage In Need of Urgent Safeguarding' list is reflective of our leadership's directives to support our authentic cultural heritage, and to emphasise on its importance in building national identity and maintaining communication between different generations. It also contributes to the achievement of the Department of Culture and Tourism strategic goals in ensuring that the UAE national heritage is embedded in the constant development and progress of our nation.

"In that context, Al-Azi is an important performing art which still enjoys wide public participation, highlighting its historical depth and its significant stature among elements of the UAE's authentic heritage."

The committee, which includes representatives of 24-member countries of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, meets on an annual basis to monitor the implementation of the legal document ratified by 175 countries that have listed the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in their national legislation. The 14-year old convention has enabled the launch of 140 conservation projects for living heritage in 107 countries.

Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director-General of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, said that the inscription of Al-Azi on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding is one of the positive outcomes of the depth of research and documentation that the Department of Culture and Tourism has conducted to preserve the UAE cultural heritage and promote at the international level, as a tool of effective intercultural communication among world nations.

Previously, Al Majlis, Gahwa or Arabic coffee, and Al Razfa have joined Falconry, Al Taghrooda and Al Ayala on UNESCO's list of 'Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity', while Al Sadu has been inscribed on the list of 'Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Need of Urgent Safeguarding'.

The Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage meets once a year to examine the heritage elements and practices that are nominated for inscription on the UNESCO List. Its 4th session in 2009 was held in Abu Dhabi, after which the UAE adopted a number of recommendations and issued decisions that contributed to UNESCO's journey towards achieving its key objectives.

Source: Emirates News Agency