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Intangible goods

Basel Carnival competes for spot on heritage list

The Swiss interior ministry has asked the United Nations to recognise the Basel Carnival as a globally important cultural phenomenon.

The Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization announced Switzerland’s official submission on Thursday.

The UN cultural agency, known as UNESCO, will decide by November 2017 whether to include the carnival on its list of things that reflect an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity”.

The three-day Basel Carnival combines music, spoken dialects, and arts and crafts, and is widely known throughout and beyond Switzerland as one of the world’s few Protestant carnivals.

It will be judged by factors such as how well it can be defined as having an “intangible cultural heritage”, whether it proposes adequate safeguards for the event and has community participation.

Swiss culture

The Basel Carnival is the second event that Switzerland has proposed for inclusion on that UNESCO list. Last year, the Swiss cabinet announced it was nominating the Vevey Winemaker’s Festival as the candidate for 2015. The winemaker’s festival will be judged by November of this year at a UNESCO meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Both the Basel Carnival and the Winemaker’s Festival come from a shortlist completed by the Swiss cabinet in October 2014. UNESCO will only accept one submission a year from each country.

The cabinet also has shortlisted the Swiss tradition of avalanche risk management; mechanical watchmaking; graphic design and typography; alpine seasons; yodelling; and the processions of the Holy Week in Mendrisio.

UNESCO’s “intangible cultural heritage list” – not to be mistaken with its popular list of “world heritage sites” – protects things not necessarily rooted in place, but in time. Those can be community practices, social interactions or living traditions such rituals and festivals or knowledge of nature and the arts.


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