Bogotá welcomes the 14th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO, known as 14.COM, which will take place at the Ágora Convention Center from December 9 to 14.

The event is the first of its kind in Latin America and the Caribbean, and recognizes the efforts and commitment of Colombia in safeguarding its Intangible Cultural Heritage, as well as successful and innovative public policies.

The 14.COM event is organized by Colombia’s National Government, Bogotá Mayoralty and UNESCO. In turn, the Ministry of Culture under the leadership of Carmen Inés Vásquez, and the Secretariat of Culture, Recreation and Sports of Bogotá lead the project and work hand in hand with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Tourism, Fontur, Bogotá’s Cultural Patrimonial Heritage Institute and Museum of Bogotá.

Bogotá’s Culture Secretary María Claudia López will preside over this year’s meeting, which brings together an estimated 1,000 attendees, among them the 24 committee delegates, representatives from observer nations, NGO leaders and journalists from 120 countries. The 14.COM meeting will deliberate and decide on which of the 42 cultural practices proposed by participating members should become part of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (LRPCI of Humanity), in addition to making recommendations and guidelines for the safeguarding of intangible heritage.

In 2006, Colombia approved the 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention of UNESCO through Law 1037, and since then, the government has worked to safeguard practices that are indelibly linked to specific communities or territories. Colombia’s eight cultural expressions on UNESCO’s LRPCI of Humanity, include two carnivals: the flamboyant Carnaval de Barranquilla on the coast, inscribed in 2008, and, a year later, the Carnaval de Blancos y Negros, Blacks and Whites’ Carnival, which takes place every year in Pasto, departmental capital of Nariño.

The traditional music from Colombia’s southern Pacific coast and northern region of Esmeraldas in Ecuador, expressed through traditional chants and instruments, among them the marimba, was inscribed by UNESCO in 2015. The small community of San Basilio de Palenque was recognized for preserving an ancestral language, rituals and musical traditions that date back to its founding by escaped slaves in the 17th century.

The word guardians of the Guajira Peninsula and members of the indigenous Wayúu were inscribed in 2010 for safeguarding their legislative rites and procedures known as the Wayúu Regulatory System. Across the Guajira, the palabrero (Putchipü’üi), is the moral authority in their communities.

Traditional knowledge of the Jaguar Shamans of Yuruparí tribe was inscribed for representing the cultural heritage of many ethnic groups that live along the Pirá Paraná River in south-eastern Colombia. The Jaguar Shamans follow a calendar of ceremonial rituals, based on sacred traditional knowledge that draws the community together through healing, preventing sickness and revitalizing their natural world.

Listed also by UNESCO is the Festival of Saint Francis of Assisi – Fiestas de San Pacho – held every October in Quibdó, Chocó, and the Holy Week processions in Popayán, Cauca.

Running parallel to 14.COM, the general public will be able to participate in different events and activities, organized by Expoartesanías, the arts and crafts fair that showcases the products of talented artisans from around the country, and Bibliored, Bogotá’s Network of Public Libraries and Non-Conventional Reading Spaces that seeks to construct public knowledge and empower communities through culture. Bogotá is an example of heritage in the urban context.

The XIX edition of Expoartesanías (December 4 to 17) will hold cultural exhibitions and live workshops inspired by some of the manifestations in the representative listings of Colombia, including live paintings of Galeras in Sucre; Jaguar Shamans of Yuruparí Wayúu Regulatory System; ancestral system of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta; funeral rites and chants of the Pacific, to name a few. For the complete program consult: www.mincultura.gov.co

While an Intangible Heritage grants communities and peoples global recognition and awareness of living expressions, Colombia has two intangible heritages in need of urgent safeguarding: the Llano work songs and traditional vallenato music of the Greater Magdalena region. With the classification of “urgent safeguarding,” these territorial expressions can claim the protection of their ICH identity by influencing public policy at a national level.

Between 2019 and 2022 Colombia intends to register 20 expressions in its Representative Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Cultural Property of the Nation. It is also considering adding at least three manifestations in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and in the List of World Heritage of UNESCO.

Sergio Bartelsman/Fundación Gaia/MIN CULTURA