A Living Human Treasure system
The title “Bearer of Popular Craft Tradition” was first established in January 2001 by Order of the Minister of Culture. Among the various existing expressions of Czech traditional popular culture, the Government wishes to focus specifically on popular craft traditions, as they are especially endangered.
In June 2003, the Government of the Czech Republic approved Resolution No. 571: “Strategy for Greater Effectiveness in Protecting and Promoting Traditional Folk Culture”. The Strategy defines concrete measures for the identification of traditional folk culture, its systematic documentation, conservation and transmission to future generations, as well as its presentation to the public both within and outside the country.
Within the framework of the Strategy for Greater Effectiveness in Protection and Promoting Traditional Folk Culture, Government Order No.5/2003 Coll. on “Awards of the Ministry of Culture for Activities in the Field of Culture” was issued on 16 December 2002. This Order gave legal status to the title “Bearer of Popular Craft Tradition”.
To implement this Government Order, the Minister of Culture issued Order No. 13/2003 which sets up a Commission in charge of selecting candidates for the title of Bearers of Popular Craft Tradition and establishes the rules of procedure of this Commission.
Who are the “Bearers of Popular Craft Tradition”?
The title “Bearer of Popular Craft Tradition” is granted to citizens of the Czech Republic who practice traditional popular crafts. It is a recognition of skills, knowledge of processes and technologies, as well as of efforts in maintaining them, presenting them to the public and transmitting them to future generations (Section 25 of the Order of the Government 5/2003 Coll., dated 16 December 2002).
Domains of the intangible cultural heritage concerned
Individual crafts are defined according to the basic material used:
- Clay: black earthenware, glazed earthenware, faience
- Glass: free-blown glass, lampwork, glass painting, beads work
- Stone: stone masonry and stonescaping
- Metal: wrought-ironwork, smithery, wire work, casting, chasing
- Plaiting materials: straw-plaiting, reed-mace-plaiting, wickerwork, wood-strip-plaiting
- Wood: wood-chopping, wood-chiselling, wood-turning, metal ornaments on wood, woodcarving
- Textiles: tablet-weaving, hand-weaving using various types of weaves, embroidery, lace-making, batik, resist dyeing with kaolin-and-rubber paste and hand-block printing of pattern
- Materials of animal (except wool) not designed primarily for consumption as food: shoemaking, leather-bag making, strap-making, manufacture of bone, horn and pearl buttons, clasps and
decorations, decorating blown-out eggs
Responsible body in charge of the system
By Order of the Minister of Culture No. 13/2003 a Commission, designed as a consultative body to the Minister of Culture, was set-up to consider candidates for the title of “Bearer of Popular Craft Tradition” and traditional folk craft materials.
The members of the Commission are proposed by the Department of Regional and National Minorities Culture and appointed by the Minister of Culture. The Commission is composed of at least seven members, experts in the field of popular culture and national cultural heritage, selected for a term of four years. The Chairperson may invite experts or representatives of professional associations of folk craftsmen or of specialists in the field of traditional popular culture to take part in the meetings of the Commission in an advisory capacity.
The meetings are held at least once a year and are called by the Director of the National Folk Culture Institute, in charge of preparing documentation on the nominations.
The title “Bearer of Popular Craft Tradition” is granted every year on the occasion of the Days of European Heritage. A maximum of five titles can be granted for each calendar year (Section 25 of the Order of the Government 5/2003 Coll., dated 16 December 2002).
The title is granted by the Minister of Culture upon recommendation by the Commission.
Applications for the title of “Bearer of Popular Craft Tradition” may be submitted for preliminary evaluation to the National Folk Culture Institute by scientific and expert institutions, museums, associations, other non-profit organizations, individuals or governmental bodies.
Based on the content of the application files received from institutions and/ or individuals, the National Folk Culture Institute prepares and submits to the Commission the documentation and materials supporting the nomination proposals in a standardized form, including the professional CV of the candidates.
The Commission evaluates and selects candidates on the basis of the documentation submitted by the National Folk Culture Institute. The documentation should contain the following information:
- the opinion of the nominator as to whether the candidate’s work may be considered as an exceptional example of handicraft in danger of disappearing;
- the candidate’s willingness and ability to transmit his/her acquired professional knowledge and skills; it is also essential to know to whom the candidate intends to transmit his/her knowledge and skills;
- a detailed description of the candidate’s efforts made to safeguard his/her craft and to promote it publicly;
- where and how the candidate acquired his/her knowledge and skills;
- the capacity of the candidate and his/her workshop to continue production and on the manner in which the products are marketed;
- a description of the technology used by the candidate, the type of resulting products, and of activities aimed at preserving the tradition in question;
- the ways in which the materials are obtained and processed;
- a detailed step-by-step description (both written and photographic) of individual artefacts;
- a written statement by the nominee consenting to the documentation and collecting of material on the given craft for the Documentation Library of the National Folk Culture Institute;
- information on the candidate’s participation in exhibitions, festivals and specialized traditional craft fairs.
The Commission evaluates each candidate with respect to the first three points mentioned above and according to the following criteria:
- High aesthetic value and utility of the products;
- Use of traditional materials and their traditional processing in the manufacture of the products;
- Respect for traditional morphology of the produce, neatness of execution;
- Use of surface finish, decor and colours corresponding to traditional practice;
- Reproduction of traditional patterns or models;
- Degree of mastery of traditional handicraft techniques and skills;
- Willingness to co-operate with experts preparing documentation on the techniques and skills used by the candidate; the documentation is to be archived by the National Folk Culture Institute, the intellectual property rights of the candidate are protected.
Rights and obligations of the “Bearers of Popular Craft Tradition”
The “Bearer of Popular Craft Tradition” receives a diploma and a financial award of CZK 30,000 (Section 25 of Decree 5/2003 Coll., 16 December 2002).
Once the bearer has received the title, he/she has the right to:
- label his/her products free of charge with a stamp granted by the National Folk Culture Institute;
- have his/her name published on the website of the Institute.
The bearers are obliged to:
- act in such a way as not to degrade the prestige of the title and product label;
- use the label only on the products of the activity for which the title has been granted;
- make efforts to transmit their skills and experience to future generations.
The title can be withdrawn if the bearer deviates from the production for which the title was awarded (article II of the rules of procedure of the Commission selecting candidates for the title of “Bearer of Popular Craft Tradition”).
Information on existing “Bearers of Popular Craft Tradition”
In 2003, when the title was awarded for the third time, the following fields were concerned: carpentry and axe woodwork, traditional weaving, carving of gingerbread moulds with relief patterns, wood-strip plaiting, manufacture of wooden doves.
More information is available in the following documents:
- Government Decree No.5/2003 Coll. (English)
- Order of the Minister of Culture No. 13/2003 (English)
- Rules of Procedure of the Commission selecting candidates for the title of “Bearer of Popular Craft Tradition” (annex to Order of the Minister of Culture No. 13/2003) (English)
- Methodological instructions for nominating candidates for the title of “Bearer of Popular Craft Tradition” (English)