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Unesco and Intangible Cultural Heritage

Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) involves social customs, traditions, rituals, representations, expressions, particular knowledge of nature and craft skills that communities, groups and individuals recognize as a form of cultural heritage. It is passed on from generation to generation and from person to person.
Intangible cultural heritage is the bridge between present, past and future. It is culture of today, creates a sense of connectedness with earlier generations and is at the same time future-orientated, because people wish to pass it on to next generations.

Dynamic heritage

Contrary to material heritage (buildings, objects, documents and monuments), intangible cultural heritage is a living and dynamic form of heritage, which adapts to and changes with time. It connects the community that practices it and identifies with it. Intangible cultural heritage constitutes the heart of that group of people, who often practice it with passion and on a voluntary basis.

Unesco and Intangible cultural heritage

The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage aims to:

  • Protect intangible cultural heritage;
  • Promote the respect for intangible cultural heritage and its bearers;
  • Raise the awareness of the significance of intangible cultural heritage at an international, national and local level;
  • Ensure the recognition and appreciation of the cultural diversity;
  • Promote international cooperation.

Worldwide 175 countries, including the Netherlands signed the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

National Inventory of Intangible and Cultural Heritage in the Netherlands

In March 2014, Henna Art was added to the National Inventory of Immaterial and Cultural Heritage in the Netherlands.

The National Inventory charts Immaterial Heritage and helps communities and artisans to safeguard their traditions and preserve them for future generations.
The compilation of the National Inventory is one of the obligations the Netherlands undertook to fulfill when the UNESCO Convention for the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was ratified.

(foto van plaatsing op de lijst)

I realized placement on the National Inventory by conceptualizing not only the future of Henna Art as a craft but also what is needed for the safeguarding of the traditions, customs, rituals and cultural heritage. For my efforts I received the official certificate mentioning the placement on personal title.  That makes me the only Henna Artist entitled to use the logo of the National Inventory for her Intangible heritage.  This official acknowledgement for Henna Art is unique in the world.  An achievement I am very proud of!

Why I find this super important?

Moroccan Henna Art and Culture being my expertise, I take pride in the fact that I’m upholding a very rich and meaningful tradition that is passed down for generation to generation of women.

Regrettably we live in a time where nearly everything is fast, cheap and superficial.  So-called henna artists work with quick-fix chemicals, that stain the skin black or red swiftly, but endanger the health of the wearer. Designs are carelessly and often badly copied.  All that seems to count is making a ‘pretty’ picture or ‘henna tattoo’, quickly and for the lowest possible price. This degrades Henna Art to a cheap trick, befitting the trend: fast, cheap and superficial.

Quite the contrary to my view on the matter.  You won’t find the words “henna tattoo” anywhere in my vocabulary, except for here, in the explanation. Authentic Moroccan Henna Art is a craft that requires years of practice to master and entails a broad spectrum of (cultural) diversity, different styles, techniques, symbolism, traditions, meaning and rituals.  Before you can even start ‘drawing’ a pattern, you have to know how to make the perfect henna pasta, using natural henna powder and other natural ingredients.  Henna paste with precisely the right structure and coloring strength. That alone is a process learnt by continuous practice.

Only after one as learnt about the henna paste, can one start learning about patterns. Every (regional)Moroccan Henna style consist of distinctive patterns, techniques, symbols and meanings.  A Moroccan Neqacha (Henna Artist) always works freestyle and draws the hennadesign intuitively. Making sure, every one of them is truly unique. To achieve that level of mastery takes years of practice and study. Memorizing and combining the motifs in an endless variation of symbols, figures and patterns, combined with the hands-on technique that enables the Neqacha to follow her intuition is not something learnt in the wink of an eye. After the design is applied to the skin, the work is not yet completed. Aftercare is given to enable the henna to stay on the skin for as long as possible. After about 48 hours the henna stain will have attained its maximum color intensity.

In a nutshell….

a fully-fledged authentic Henna Artist such as myself  has had to put in long and hard work to elevate my craft to this level of excellence.  Moroccan Henna Art needs recognition worldwide in order to be safeguarded for now and in the future.

National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage

I actively propagate and safeguard the practition of Moroccan Henna Art and therefor I ‘m one of the ambassadors of Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2014. Henna Art was added to the National Inventory of Immaterial and Cultural Heritage in the Netherlands due to my safeguarding plans. This Inventory charts Immaterial Heritage and helps communities and artisans to safeguard their traditions and preserve them for future generations.
The compilation of the National Inventory is one of the obligations the Netherlands undertook to fulfill when the UNESCO Convention for the safeguarding  of Intangible Cultural Heritage was ratified.