http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/USL/00534

Traditional skills of building and sailing Iranian Lenj boats in the Persian Gulf

Inscribed in 2011 (6.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

Country(ies): Iran (Islamic Republic of)

Identification

Description

Traditional skills of building and sailing Iranian Lenj boats in the Persian Gulf

Iranian Lenj vessels are traditionally hand-built and are used by inhabitants of the northern coast of the Persian Gulf for sea journeys, trading, fishing and pearl diving. The traditional knowledge surrounding Lenjes includes oral literature, performing arts and festivals, in addition to the sailing and navigation techniques and terminology and weather forecasting that are closely associated with sailing, and the skills of wooden boat-building itself. The navigational knowledge used to sail Lenjes was traditionally passed on from father to son. Iranian navigators could locate the ship according to the positions of the sun, moon and stars; they used special formulae to calculate latitudes and longitudes, as well as water depth. Each wind was given a name, which along with the colour of water or the height of waves was used to help forecast the weather. Specific music and rhythms also constituted inseparable parts of sailing in the Persian Gulf, with sailors singing particular songs while working. Nowadays, the community of practitioners is small and mainly comprises older people. Wooden Lenjes are being replaced by cheaper fibreglass substitutes, and wooden Lenj construction workshops are being transformed into repair shops for older Lenjes. The philosophy, ritualistic background, culture and traditional knowledge of sailing in the Persian Gulf are gradually fading, although some of the associated ceremonies continue to be practised in a few places.

Documents

Decision 6.COM 8.10

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 construction and use of traditional Iranian boats require a broad set of skills in the areas of craftsmanship and knowledge of nature and the universe, along with their respective technical vocabularies, and contribute to the identity of the Iranian people and the various communities concerned;
  • U2: The diminishing number of practitioners, economic changes, adoption of cheaper manufacturing technologies, and introduction of modern navigation methods combine to threaten the viability of the element; knowledge of it is compartmentalized among different groups, who are not aware of the philosophy, ritual background and complete form of the tradition;
  • U3: The submitting State has proposed a wide-ranging set of relevant safeguarding measures, including a capacity-building programme, although the provision of financial support to the tradition bearers and a number of details such as a complete timetable would have been welcomed;
  • U4: The submitting State has provided evidence of collaboration between key stakeholders who have been involved in the elaboration of the nomination and have provided their free, prior and informed consent;
  • U5: The element was included in 2009 in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, administered by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.

Inscribes Traditional skills of building and sailing Iranian Lenj boats in the Persian Gulf on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
Welcomes the financial commitment of the State to support a safeguarding plan focussed on the strengthening of capacities of boat-builders;
Invites the State to develop a careful timetable for the implementation of the safeguarding plan and to avoid measures that may be too academic or may lead to the museumification of the element, rendering it inaccessible to the tradition bearers.

Slideshow

Video



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