Complex Made Simple

Community workshops to foster understanding of Emirate’s intangible cultural heritage

Cultural anthropologists, academics and researchers are set to gain a greater understanding of the emirate’s intangible heritage in a specialised workshop in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

Organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) under the title ‘Identifying Community-Based Intangible Cultural Heritage’, the workshop targets heritage enthusiasts, particularly teachers and researchers at the Ministry of Culture, Youth & Community Development, heritage departments, local institutions, individuals, NGOs and others who are actively involved in preserving intangible cultural heritage.

The workshop, running between August 24 and September 4, will be supervised by Dr. Nasser Ali Al Humairi, intangible heritage director and UNESCO international files coordinator at TCA Abu Dhabi. Participants will receive theoretical training for five days in Abu Dhabi, followed by another five days of practical training in Al Ain City on how to collect documented information covering three intangible cultural heritage elements (Al Harbiyah, Al Majlis and Arabian coffee) which will be on the UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage List in 2015.

“This is a very important workshop because the process of identifying community-based intangible cultural heritage is a fairly new practice which does not have a fixed form yet. It draws on different experiences and tools used in multiple research areas including participatory rural appraisal and other developmental participatory tools; receiving free, conscious prior approval by local communities on the decisions related to their future; participatory ethnographic studies, folkloric surveys; oral history studies; and spatial data management and participatory delivery,” said Dr. Nasser Al Humairi.

“The community-based identification process is part of the above-mentioned tools, encompassing individual and collective interviews and participatory maps, photos and videos that are interactive means of effectively delineating the community’s elements of intangible cultural heritage and presenting them in a methodical way,” added Al Humairi, reaffirming TCA Abu Dhabi’s commitment to UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. TCA Abu Dhabi also bears responsibility of empowering local communities to do their part of identifying intangible cultural heritage, preserve it and pass it on to future generations.

TCA Abu Dhabi has previously organised numerous workshops in the field of identifying, collecting and documenting heritage; however, this pioneering workshop draws on the community-based identification process according to the UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The workshop aims to provide participants with the required knowledge and skills to design and facilitate the heritage identification process which suits the special circumstances in which they work.

The current community-based identifying process represents the third topic covered by UNESCO’s study curriculum, which was prepared within the framework of UNESCO’s global strategy of building capacities in the field of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage through the implementation of the 2003 Convention. UNESCO is currently seeking to develop new topics, while being keen on updating the curriculum’s materials with the support of its trained experts.

By the end of the workshop, trainees are expected to be able to co-design and perform the processes of identifying community-based heritage, and prepare identification frameworks or develop currently applied ones using the different participatory research methods and skills. Trainees will also be able to operate documentation equipment.