Dr. Helga Wäß

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UNESCO: 6 new listings - Intangible cultural heritage 2024

Perchten runner - press photo archive: Helga Waess (2020)

UNESCO COMMISSION - Intangible Cultural Heritage

What connects Schwalm whitework with Berlin techno culture and what is Viez? 

All of them are "intangible cultural heritage worth protecting" in Germany

BERLIN. As the Conference of Culture Ministers, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media and the German UNESCO Commission announced on March 13, 2024, six creative, inclusive and innovative cultural forms have been added as new additions to Germany's list of the Federal Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

 New features include the Berlin techno culture, mountaineering in Saxony, the Finsterwald singing tradition, the Kirchseeon Perchtenlauf, the Schwalm whitework and the Viez. All of them are cultural events that are carried out according to customs and have become part of the living rituals of the people in the respective regions over the course of decades and centuries. 

Nationwide, we now have 150 entries for the intangible cultural heritage in Germany that is worthy of protection. For more than 20 years, UNESCO has supported the transmission, documentation and preservation of living traditions in the areas of dance, theater, music, natural knowledge, craft techniques and oral traditions.

The chairman of the Culture Ministers Conference 2024 and Hessian Culture Minister Timon Gremmels said to the press

 "Culture is lived every day in Germany, as the six new additions to the nationwide register of intangible cultural heritage show once again. The most recent entries underline the diversity and vibrancy of cultural practices. The list of our intangible heritage continues to grow and with it the commitment to maintaining traditions and preserving them in the long term for future generations." 

Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth emphasized: 

"The list of intangible cultural heritage has again been supplemented this year with important cultural forms. The new additions not only illustrate the regional diversity and thematic breadth of the lived culture in Germany, they also represent an expanded concept of culture that opposes the absurd separation of E- and U-culture. 

What is significant is the reception of Berlin techno culture. For more than 30 years, techno has been an important sound in our capital, also for many people who come to Berlin from Europe and all over the world. Berlin's techno culture has stood for values ​​such as diversity, respect and cosmopolitanism for many years. Whether subculture or traditional craft techniques, it is all part of the cultural wealth of our country, which is underlined by this inclusion in the list of intangible cultural heritage." 

Christoph Wulf, Chairman of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee in Germany and Vice President of the German Commission for UNESCO, explained:

"The new recordings show the entire spectrum of cultural life in Germany. Young culture is just as much a part of it as centuries-old crafts, urban heritage as well as rural heritage. Tradition and change go hand in hand here. This diversity is what defines our society. Our lived heritage creates community and brings people together every day." 

Six living traditions that are an expression of the regional lifestyle in Germany have been included in the nationwide register of intangible cultural heritage

1. Mountaineering in Saxony

Mountaineering is still a popular sport that brings young and old together. You can experience something special here in Saxony:

This special cultural exercise is widespread in Saxon Switzerland and the Zittau Mountains (Saxony) - and beyond. It is practiced all year round and belongs to the area of ​​"knowledge and customs relating to nature and the universe".

Mountaineering in Saxony refers to a practice that, in accordance with the regional geological conditions of the sandstone, requires specific techniques and rules of climbing and requires and conveys knowledge of the natural and biological conditions.

2. Finsterwalder singing tradition

The Finsterwald singing tradition developed from three to four-part a cappella singing. In Finsterwalde (Brandenburg) and the surrounding towns, singing takes place all year round. "Based on the composer Wilhelm Wolff's couplet "We are the singers of Finsterwalde" written in 1899, an identity-forming singing tradition developed in Finsterwalde, which choirs and music groups are constantly developing further."

3. Kirchseeoner Perchtenlauf

"The Perchtenlauf in Kirchseeon (Bavaria) is a local version of the "Perchtenlaufen", which is also carried out in other places in winter. In Kirchseeon, the Perchten are considered lucky charms who travel around the respective communities and ring in the New Year. The Kirchseeoner Perchtenlauf is performed within the community of Kirchseeon, during which the Perchten parade on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays in Advent and on Perchten Night from January 5th to 6th to ring in the New Year. Kirchseeoner Perchten are considered to bring good luck because their rituals symbolically banish the spirits of darkness and awaken the spirits of new beginnings."

4. Schwalm whitework (Hesse embroidery)

"Schwalm whitework is a traditional craft technique that is practiced in the Schwalm region in Hesse and beyond and is made up of a combination of different techniques. In Schwalm whitework, various motifs are embroidered on tightly woven linen using white thread. It is made up of a combination of different techniques, including surface, openwork and cutout embroidery. Many different motifs of stylized shapes such as hearts, tulips, baskets, circles and birds are arranged into contour patterns. The spaces between the motifs are densely filled with tendrils, small leaves and flowers. Constantly new contour patterns, the huge selection of extremely diverse surface filling patterns and the wide range of different edge designs offer unlimited design possibilities."

5. Techno culture in Berlin

"Technoculture is a subculture surrounding the music style techno, a form of electronic dance music that has shaped large parts of the city of Berlin since the mid to late 1980s. The core of techno culture is the music and the associated dance events."

"Techno is based on various musical developments. In addition to music, techno culture also includes fashion and events such as raves, i.e. dance events with electronic music. Musically, techno is characterized by electronic tones that are strung together in a rhythmic, monotonous structure. What is characteristic is the very large modulation capability and range of frequencies. DJs lead from one piece to the next through synchronized transitions, the so-called "mix."

6. Viez

"Viez is wine made from cultivated apple, pear and quince varieties. Cultivation strengthens biodiversity and shapes the image of the cultural landscape in the Moselle-Franconian-speaking area.

Winemaking from apples, pears or quinces, the associated cultural practices and knowledge about breeding, cultivation and further processing of the fruit varieties have been passed down in Germany for centuries. The knowledge and skills required to produce the animal include, among other things, specific knowledge of the types of fruit and the horticultural measures required to raise them. This includes, among other things, proper planting and sustainable care of the trees, setting up tree nurseries and storing the fruit. While small producers usually use a manual screw and lever press to produce Viez, hydraulic presses are used for larger volumes.

Until the 18th century, the monasteries were the key bearers of knowledge about optimizing fruit yields and fermentation processes. The blossoming of scientific knowledge and the associated rapid development of engineering knowledge also led to an increasing control of agricultural processes on the basis of newly acquired agricultural theoretical knowledge. In the area of ​​livestock production, this meant, on the one hand, the targeted development and increase of fruit cultivation through the establishment of tree nurseries and the selection and breeding of particularly suitable fruit varieties, and on the other hand, the improvement of pressing and cellar technology with a view to efficient and hygienic processes.

Nationwide register of intangible cultural heritage - background knowledge

The Convention for the Conservation of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in Paris in 2003. To date, 182 countries have ratified the treaty. Germany has been a party to the contract since 2013.

Individual elements from the national lists of the contracting states can be proposed for one of three international UNESCO lists of intangible cultural heritage. These include sauna culture in Finland, reggae from Jamaica and midwifery, which was declared an intangible cultural heritage of humanity last December at the suggestion of several countries, including Germany.

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