Schemenlaufen, the carnival of Imst, Austria
Inscribed in 2012 (7.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
- Schemenlaufen, the carnival of Imst, Austria
Every four years the city of Imst in Austria celebrates its Fasnacht carnival on the Sunday before the Christian season of Lent. The central festivity is Schemenlaufen, a procession of masked, costumed dancers. The main characters are in pairs, one man wearing rotating bells and another wearing larger bells weighing up to 35 kg. Together, they perform a special dance of jumps and bows, with the bells producing a mix of high and low tones. A total of fifty-five such couples participate, while other masked characters slowly imitate their dance. Yet other characters maintain order by softly hitting or splashing the audience with water, while a young girl throws scented powder into the audience. Masked chimney-sweeps climb houses in feats of bravery, witches shout at the audience accompanied by a band playing dissonant melodies, and white or brown bears demonstrate their strength. The carnival unites the whole population of Imst in a common goal: organizing the Fasnacht in accordance with long-standing tradition. Inhabitants of Imst, particularly women, are schooled in the techniques for making Schemenlaufen costumes, while local blacksmiths forge the bells. Everybody may carve wooden masks and knowledge of traditional craftsmanship is usually passed on within the family or taught in special courses.
Decision 7.COM 11.3
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: Passed on from generation to generation and open to the participation of all residents, the carnival of Imst gives its community a sense of identity and continuity, reinforcing social cohesion and integration;
- R.2: Inscription of the Schemenlaufen on the Representative List could enhance the visibility of intangible cultural heritage and awareness of its significance, particularly among practitioners of similar carnival traditions near and far;
- R.3: Ongoing and proposed safeguarding measures demonstrate the commitment of the community and the local and national authorities to ensure the viability of the Schemenlaufen;
- R.4: Several practitioners, communities, committees and local associations of the carnival of Imst participated in drafting the nomination, submitted photos and videos, and gave their free, prior and informed consent;
- R.5: Upon the application of the community concerned, the carnival of Imst was included in March 2010 in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria, maintained by the Austrian Commission for UNESCO;
Inscribes Schemenlaufen, the carnival of Imst, Austria on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
© 2004 by Manfred Siegl
These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website