Suiti cultural space
Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding
- Suiti cultural space
The Suiti are a small Catholic community in the Protestant (Lutheran) western part of Latvia. The Suiti cultural space is characterized by a number of distinct features, including vocal drone singing performed by Suiti women, wedding traditions, colourful traditional costumes, the Suiti language, local cuisine, religious traditions, celebrations of the annual cycle, and a remarkable number of folk songs, dances and melodies recorded in this community. Older forms of extended family structures are still common here, and such families, where the transfer of skills from generation to generation takes place, are important bastions of Suiti cultural heritage. The synthesis of pre-Christian traditions and religious rituals has created a unique blend of intangible cultural heritage in the Suiti community. The pillar of Suiti identity – the Catholic Church – successfully recovered following the Soviet period and as a result, the Suiti cultural space has experienced a gradual renaissance. However, today only a few, mostly old people, have a good knowledge of Suiti cultural heritage, and thus there is an urgent need to disseminate this knowledge and to involve more people in its preservation by recovering elements preserved only in written documents, film archives and museum depositaries.
Decision 4.COM 14.07
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, as follows:
- U1: The Suiti cultural space has been preserved and constantly recreated by generations of Catholics in predominantly Protestant surroundings, for whom maintaining their unique intangible heritage and confessional distinctiveness provides the two-thousand-strong Suiti community with a profound sense of valued identity;
- U2: Although Suiti rituals and practices remain important in the life of the community, their viability is at risk due to the limited economic opportunities for generating income and sustaining the cohesion of the community, shrinking opportunities and resources for their practice and transmission, as well as their lack of prestige among the youth;
- U3: Recent safeguarding measures include the establishment of the Suiti Ethnic Cultural Centre and creation of the community’s website, while the safeguarding plan to ensure the viability of the element, developed jointly by community members and the relevant authorities, involves adjusting school curricula, supporting informal education and extra-curricular activities, revitalizing certain rituals, training to acquire traditional skills, promoting the Suiti language and inventorying manifestations of Suiti intangible heritage;
- U4: Adequate documentation is provided to demonstrate that the three local community councils, as well as the active cultural organizations (Suitu Novads and the Suiti Ethnic Cultural Centre), gave their consent and wholehearted support to the nomination;
- U5: The Suiti Cultural Space has been included by the State Party in 2008 in a ‘List of Most Important Values of Latvian Culture’ as one of thirteen distinctive expressions of intangible cultural heritage.
© 2009 by Ethnic Culture Center “Suiti” Foundation (Biedrïba EKC “Suiti”) and Ltd. Labvakar.
These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website