Silat, Thai massage and 'ak-kalpak': 4 Asian cultural practices newly awarded UNESCO heritage status

Silat, Thai massage and 'ak-kalpak': 4 Asian cultural practices newly awarded UNESCO heritage status

Ak-kalpak hats
Kyrgyz people wearing traditional hats 'Ak-Kalpak' attend a rally marking "National Flag Day" and "Kyrgyz cap Day" at the central Ala-Too Square in Bishkek on March 5, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Vyacheslav Oseledko)  

BOGOTA, Colombia: Four cultural practices that originate in Asia were on Thursday (Dec 12) added to a prestigious UNESCO heritage list, which seeks to enhance visibility for these traditional practices and the know-how of communities.

This year, a total of 15 elements were added to the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, decided by 24 members of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. 

Among them are Irish harping, the winter festivities at the Carnival of Podence in Portugal and 'le Samoa, a fine handwoven mat with significant cultural value. 

The list includes the following four Asian practices: 

PENCAK SILAT (INDONESIA)

Indonesia pencak silat
This picture taken on February 4, 2018 shows Indonesians performing the Indonesian martial art of pencak silat during a demonstration in Bandung. (Photo: AFP/Adek Berry)  

The latest Indonesian art form to be inscribed on the list is the martial art pencak silat, described on the UNESCO website as a "long-standing tradition that encompasses numerous aspects: mental and spiritual, self-defence and aesthetics". 

"The moves and styles of pencak silat reflect a strong artistic concern and require physical harmony with the accompanying music," the website stated. 

In a statement cited by news agency Antara, Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said: "Indonesia has a strong commitment to preserving pencak silat ... through pencak silat education that not only focuses on the aspects of sport and self-defence but also on art and culture". 

Indonesian art forms that were previously added to the list include angklung, batik, batik education, wayang puppet theatre and three genres of traditional Balinese dance. 

READ: Silat martial art receives UNESCO heritage status

SILAT (MALAYSIA)

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

The Malaysian silat, described as a "combative art of self-defence and survival rooted in the Malay archipelago", was also added to the list. 

"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," the UNESCO website stated.

Malaysia's Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi said the inscription was a welcome recognition as silat is one of the country's most enduring cultural heritage treasures. 

"The recognition will also reflect Malaysia's commitment to protecting the world's heritage," said Mohamaddin. 

The minister said the nomination for silat was submitted to UNESCO in March last year. 

Before the addition of silat, the heritage list already included Malaysian art forms like Dondang Sayang music and ancient theatre practice Mak Yong. 

NUAD THAI (THAILAND)

A traditional Thai herbal compress massage. (File photo: Amanresorts)
A traditional Thai herbal compress massage. (File photo: Amanresorts)

Nuad Thai is a traditional massage technique in which the practitioner "helps rebalance the patient's body, energy and structure to treat illnesses believed to be caused by the obstruction of energy flow along ‘sen’, lines understood to crisscross the human body", according to the UNESCO website. 

Originating in India and practised in Thailand for centuries, Nuat Thai was popularised when a specialty school opened in the 1960s to train massage therapists from around the world. 

From upscale Bangkok spas and Phuket beach fronts to modest street-side shophouses, Nuad Thai is now ubiquitous across the kingdom, where an hour of the back-straightening discipline can cost as little as US$5.

Nuad Thai's addition to the UNESCO list "is historic", said Krairath Chantrasri, said a Thai delegate at the UNESCO meeting in Bogota, Colombia.

"It helps promote the practice of Nuad Thai locally and internationally," he added.

AK-KALPAK CRAFTSMANSHIP (KYRGYZSTAN)

Ak-kalpak
Kyrgyz people wearing traditional hats 'Ak-Kalpak' attend a rally marking "National Flag Day" and "Kyrgyz cap Day" at the central Ala-Too Square in Bishkek on March 5, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Vyacheslav Oseledko)

The craftsmanship, traditional knowledge and skills that go into the making of the "ak-kalpak", the white traditional hats worn by Kyrgyz men, was also recognised by UNESCO. 

The shape of the hat resembles a snow peak, UNESCO pointed out, with its four sides resembling the four elements and the edging lines symbolising life. 

The knowledge needed to create the hat includes skills pertaining to felting, cutting and sewing, and pattern embroidery. 

"Ak-kalpak fosters inclusivity and unites different Kyrgyz tribes and communities. Traditionally, related knowledge and skills are transmitted from mother to daughter in craftswomen communities," according to the UNESCO website. 

Source: CNA/hs(mi)

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