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Silat martial art receives UNESCO heritage status

Silat martial art receives UNESCO heritage status

Silat practitioners apply different styles of the martial art, including "Silat Harimau Gayong". (Photo: Department of Heritage, Malaysia)

BOGOTA, Colombia: The martial art of silat has been recognised as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

It was officially recognised by UNESCO at the 14th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Bogota, Colombia, from Dec 9 to Dec 14.

Both Malaysia's silat and Indonesia's traditions of pencak silat were inscribed on the list of intangible cultural heritage.


Malaysia's silat is a "combative art of self-defence and survival rooted in the Malay Archipelago", noted UNESCO on its website.

"Traced back to the early days of the Langkasuka Kingdom, silat has now evolved into a fine practice of physical and spiritual training associated with traditional Malay attire, musical instruments and customs."

Malaysia's Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi said on Friday (Dec 13): “It is a world-class recognition for silat to be enlisted by UNESCO as it is one of the country's most enduring cultural heritage treasures."

“The recognition will also reflect Malaysia's commitment to protect the world’s heritage.”

Mr Mohamaddin also noted that this recognition was significant for the country after Mak Yong, a traditional dance, was included in UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity category in 2008.

This was then followed by the inclusion of poetic art form Dondang Sayang in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity category last year.

READ: Traditional Thai massage gets UNESCO heritage status


At the same time, the traditions of Indonesia's pencak silat was added to the list of intangible heritage.

Indonesia's pencak silat, although better known as a martial art, is a "long-standing tradition that encompasses numerous aspects: mental and spiritual, self-defence and aesthetics", said UNESCO on its website.

"Pencak Silat practitioners are taught to maintain their relationship with God, human beings and nature, and trained in various techniques to defend themselves and others."

According to an Antara report, Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the inscription of pencak silat reflected the world's recognition of its significance as a traditional art created by Indonesian ancestors and passed down across generations.

"Indonesia has a strong commitment to preserve pencak silat, among other things, through spreading pencak silat education that not only focuses on the aspects of sport and self-defence but also on art and culture," said Kama Pradipta, Indonesia's Foreign Affair Ministry's Director on Socio-culture and Developing Country International Organisations.

Other Indonesian heritage, including Wayang, Batik, Batik Training Course, Angklung, Saman Dance, Noken, Three Genres of Balinese Dances, and Pinisi Ship, had earlier been inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Source: CNA/bernama/ic


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