Cultural space of Boysun District

Inscribed in 2008 (3.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2001)

Country(ies): Uzbekistan



Cultural space of Boysun District

The Boysun District located in south-eastern Uzbekistan on the route from Asia Minor to India, is one of the oldest inhabited areas of Central Asia. With the diminishing importance of the Silk Road and the political changes in Central Asia, the region became quite isolated, which favoured the preservation of ancient traditions that show traces of several religions, including shamanistic beliefs, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Islam. Today the district is home to about 82,000 inhabitants.

Numerous traditional rituals are still alive: on the eve of the spring festival of Navruz, for instance, a sowing ritual is held with offerings of food. Family rites also persist: 40 days after a birth, the evil spirits are chased away with fire and ashes; the circumcision of boys is accompanied by goat fights and various games, such as wrestling and horse races. Ancient practices are still often used to conduct wedding ceremonies, funeral rites and shamanistic rituals to cure the sick. Among other popular traditions are ritual chants linked to annual festivals, epic legends and dances. Wind or string instruments accompany the lyrical chants. The Shalola folk music ensemble has collected popular songs and made an inventory of traditional instruments and costumes. The members of the group have also documented legends, epics and old melodies in the villages.

The policy of the Soviet era imposed a cultural model which left little room for traditional Boysun cultural and artistic expression. Today, there is a clear need for assistance to provide the communities with musical instruments and with technical equipment to document the various cultural expressions.



These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website

Safeguarding project (05-2003/06-2005)

Boysun, located in south-eastern Uzbekistan, is known as one of the oldest inhabited areas of Central Asia. Local people gather to practice traditional rites such as the sowing ritual, wedding ceremonies, circumcisions of boys, funeral rites, and shamanistic rituals.

The project action plan included training tradition bearers, teachers and students to undertake field research, involving audio-visual documentation, ethnomusicological methodology and practices, as well as the establishment and maintenance of an electronic inventory of the performing arts, popular traditions and handicrafts of the Boysun district. Text materials, audio and video recordings and photos were collected during field research in 2004. The publication of a digital inventory followed, including DVDs and audio CDs. The Master Plan to be elaborated on the basis of this project entailed the preparation of legal provisions to protect the Boysun district as a cultural and natural park, the transmission of intangible cultural heritage elements through educational and training programmes for young performers and the publication of an atlas and illustrated monograph on Boysun handicrafts and folklore.