Cuba’s sensual rumba dance and Belgium’s thriving beer culture brought a new exuberance to UNESCO’s prestigious list of “intangible” heritage on Wednesday.
The UN body gave the nod to the rumba, which it said evokes “grace, sensuality and joy”, while it said “making and appreciating beer is part of the living heritage… throughout Belgium,” which has more than 1,500 types.
The Cuban delegation to UNESCO talks in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa dedicated the rumba’s selection to longtime leader Fidel Castro, who died on Friday aged 90.
UNESCO said the rumba sprang from poor communities where the dance is an enduring “expression of resistance and self-esteem”.
Belgium meanwhile toasted the recognition, with French-speaking culture minister Alda Greoli noting that the country’s beer culture “has been handed down from generation to generation since time immemorial”.
Belgian beer’s “communal identity resulted in… an explosion of artisanal creativity and love for the brewing craft,” she said.
Her Flemish-speaking counterpart Sven Gatz said Belgium had won “the world cup of beer culture,” calling the nomination a “very nice reward for everyone who works in the sector”.
Whether Belgians drink beer to quench their thirst “after an exhilarating walk, during a friendly evening in the local pub, or as part of our gastronomy,” he said, “we have a suitable beer for every occasion”.
Belgium’s minority German-speaking community, which submitted the application, also hailed the nomination, saying it would “give Belgian beer culture even more gloss… around the world.”
The listing was “a reward for (Belgian enthusiasts’) efforts… to keep this rich beer culture alive,” it said in a statement.
Staying on the festive theme, the World Heritage Committee also enshrined the new year’s celebrations of 12 countries stretching from Turkey to India that fall on the March 21 vernal equinox and known as Nowruz in Iran.
The list of “intangible” cultural treasures was created 10 years ago, mainly to increase awareness about them, while UNESCO also sometimes offers financial or technical support to countries struggling to protect them.
On Tuesday, the UN body designated Ugandan traditional music, which is dying out partly because it requires materials from endangered species, as intangible heritage “in urgent need of safeguarding”.
UNESCO began compiling a list for cultural and natural world heritage — physical properties such as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat or the Grand Canyon in the United States — in 1972.
The list now comprises 814 cultural sites, 203 natural ones and 35 with both natural and cultural qualities such as Australia’s Uluru National Park, formerly known as Ayer’s Rock.
The committee winds up its review of nominations to the Representative Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list on Thursday.