Italy - Celebrations of big shoulder-borne processional structures

"Catholic processions featuring large shoulder-borne processional structures take place throughout Italy, but particularly in four historic city centres: in Nola, a procession of eight wood and papier mâché obelisks commemorates the return of St Paolino; in Palmi, bearers carry a complex processional structure in honour of Our Lady of the Holy Letter; in Sassari, the Discesa dei Candelieri (Descent of the Candlesticks) involves the votive transportation of wooden obelisks; and in Viterbo, the Macchina di Santa Rosa (Tower of Santa Rosa) commemorates the town’s patron saint. The coordinated and equitable sharing of tasks in a common project is a fundamental part of the celebrations, which bind the communities together through the consolidation of mutual respect, cooperation and joint effort. Dialogue among the bearers who share this cultural heritage also results in the development of an exchange network. The celebrations require the involvement of musicians and singers, as well as skilled artisans who manufacture the processional structures and create the ceremonial clothes and artefacts. The festive communities rely on the informal transmission of these techniques and knowledge to recreate the structures every year, a process that aids cultural continuity and reinforces a strong sense of identity."

Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

"Gloria" Macchina di Santa Rosa, Viterbo. A UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Thanks to Paola of Italy.

Argentina - Uruguay - Tango

"The Argentinian and Uruguayan tradition of the Tango, now familiar around the world, was developed by the urban lower classes in Buenos Aires and Montevideo in the Rio de la Plata basin. Among this mix of European immigrants to the region, descendents of African slaves and the natives of the region known as criollos, a wide range of customs, beliefs and rituals were merged and transformed into a distinctive cultural identity...." 

Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Postcard 1A - Argentina 
Argentina is famous for the Latin dance of Tango. Thanks to Argentinian sender from Patagonia, Argentina.

Postcard 1B - Argentina
A postcard of Argentinian tango dance moves. Thanks to YL who bought this postcard in Buones Aires, Argentina in 2019.

Postcard 2 - Uruguay
Uruguay tango. Tango la Cumparsita was first performed in 1914. Thanks to Lucas of Brazil for mailing from Uruguay.

Malaysia - Silat

"Silat is a combative art of self-defence and survival rooted in the Malay Archipelago. Traced back to the early days of the Langkasuka Kingdom, Silat has evolved into a fine practice of physical and spiritual training also encompassing traditional Malay attire, Silat musical instruments and customs. There are many styles of Silat, inspired by the movements of human anatomy, nature and animals. For example, Silat Harimau involves an aesthetic rhythmic motion imitating the art of self-defence and attack of the tiger. In Malaysia alone, there are more than 150 known Silat styles whose names derive from natural elements such as animals and plants. Originally, Malay Silat was practised by warriors – as noble enforcers of justice – but nowadays practitioners consist of masters, gurus, teachers and students, who are responsible for maintaining the practice. Training sessions usually take place in the evening or at night in an open space such as a courtyard, led by the Master and ‘Jurukaka’. A large number of practitioners have been trained and nurtured, and an increasing number of training centres have been established in various regions. With this accelerated dissemination, the practice has increasingly transcended its status as a martial art to become a performing art; consequently, it is now a popular sport for health and leisure."

Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Display of Malay martial arts of Bersilat by women in Sungai Ular, 22 miles north of Kuantan, Pahang.

Armenia - Lavash

"Lavash is a traditional thin bread that forms an integral part of Armenian cuisine. Its preparation is typically undertaken by a small group of women, and requires great effort, coordination, experience and special skills. A simple dough made of wheat flour and water is kneaded and formed into balls, which are then rolled into thin layers and stretched over a special oval cushion that is then slapped against the wall of a traditional conical clay oven. After thirty seconds to a minute, the baked bread is pulled from the oven wall. Lavash is commonly served rolled around local cheeses, greens or meats, and can be preserved for up to six months. It plays a ritual role in weddings, where it is placed on the shoulders of newlyweds to bring fertility and prosperity. The group work in baking lavash strengthens family, community and social ties. Young girls usually act as aides in the process, gradually becoming more involved as they gain experience. Men are also involved through the practices of making cushions and building ovens, and pass on their skills to students and apprentices as a necessary step in preserving the vitality and viability of lavash making."

Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Lavash, the preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia. Traditional baking in Oshakan Village, Armenia. Thanks to Jean-Pierre of France who visited Armenia in November 7, 2019 and arrived in Penang island on November 26, 2019.

Cyprus - Croatia - Spain - Greece - Italy - Morocco - Portugal - Mediterranean Diet

"The Mediterranean diet involves a set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing, cooking, and particularly the sharing and consumption of food. Eating together is the foundation of the cultural identity and continuity of communities throughout the Mediterranean basin. It is a moment of social exchange and communication, an affirmation and renewal of family, group or community identity. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes values of hospitality, neighbourliness, intercultural dialogue and creativity, and a way of life guided by respect for diversity. It plays a vital role in cultural spaces, festivals and celebrations, bringing together people of all ages, conditions and social classes. It includes the craftsmanship and production of traditional receptacles for the transport, preservation and consumption of food, including ceramic plates and glasses. Women play an important role in transmitting knowledge of the Mediterranean diet: they safeguard its techniques, respect seasonal rhythms and festive events, and transmit the values of the element to new generations. Markets also play a key role as spaces for cultivating and transmitting the Mediterranean diet during the daily practice of exchange, agreement and mutual respect."

Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Multi-view of Mediterranean cuisine of Algarve, Portugal. Thanks to Tiago of Portugal. Received in November 2019.

Georgia - Living culture of three writing systems of the Georgian alphabet

The evolution of Georgia’s written language has produced three alphabets – Mrgvlovani, Nuskhuri and Mkhedruli – which all remain in use today. Mrgvlovani was the first alphabet from which Nuskhuri was derived and then Mkhedruli. The alphabets coexist thanks to their different cultural and social functions, reflecting an aspect of Georgia’s diversity and identity. Their ongoing use in a cultural sense, also gives communities a feeling of continuity. The alphabets Mrgvlovani and Nuskhuri are practised and taught informally predominately by the community of the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church. For example, the alphabets feature in texts used by church worshippers such as the psalms and hymns and on inscriptions of display items used in the church, like the icons. Traditional craftspeople (goldsmiths, embroiderers, icon-painters and sculptors) who create pieces for the church can also be considered as practitioners and transmitters of the alphabets, as well as some theological schools, tertiary institutions, linguists, scholars and historians. Georgia’s educational system, however, is based on the Mkhedruli alphabet. Taught in primary and high school, the Mkhedruli alphabet is also transmitted informally in the home from older to younger generations. The Mrgvlovani and Nuskhuri alphabets are taught in schools in Georgia but at a basic level.

Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Georgian alphabets. Thanks to Shawn of New Zealand who visited Georgia. Received in June 2019.

Portugal - Craftmanship of Estremoz clay figures

"The Craftsmanship of Estremoz Clay Figures involves a production process lasting several days: the elements of the figures are assembled before being fired in an electric oven and then painted by the artisan and covered with a colourless varnish. The clay figures are dressed in the regional attires of Alentejo or the clothing of religious Christian iconography, and follow specific themes. The production of clay figures in Estremoz dates back to the seventeenth century, and the very characteristic aesthetic features of the figures make them immediately identifiable. The craft is strongly attached to the Alentejo region, since the vast majority of the figures depict natural elements, local trades and events, popular traditions and devotions. The viability and recognition of the craft are ensured through non-formal education workshops and pedagogical initiatives by the artisans, as well as by the Centre for the Appreciation and Safeguarding of the Estremoz Clay Figure. Fairs are organized at the local, national and international levels. Knowledge and skills are transmitted both in family workshops and professional contexts, and artisans teach the basics of their craft through non-formal training initiatives. Artisans are actively involved in awareness-raising activities organized in schools, museums, fairs and other events"

Source: UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List

Estremoz postcard. Thanks to Rui of Portugal.

Indonesia - Three genres of traditional dance in Bali

"There are three genres of traditional Balinese dance – sacred, semi-sacred and that meant for enjoyment by communities at large. Traditional Balinese dances are performed by male and female dancers dressed in traditional costumes consisting of brightly coloured cloth painted with gold floral and faunal motifs, with gold-leafed and jewelled accessories. The dances are inspired by nature and symbolize particular traditions, customs and religious values. They combine a variety of different movements including a basic posture with the knees outward and the stomach held in, locomotive movements in different tempos and directions, transitional movements with dynamic changes, and facial expressions with eye movements revealing happiness, sadness, anger, fear and love – all accompanied by the music of the gamelan. In addition to being technically-skilled dancers, performers must have charisma, humility and discipline and a special spiritual energy that enlivens the performance. In Balinese communities, dances are mainly transmitted informally to children from an early age, within groups. Training begins with basic dance movements and positions and progresses to more intricate dances. The sessions continue until the students have memorized the sequence of movements. Traditional Balinese dances provide participants with a solid cultural identity grounded in the understanding that they are safeguarding the cultural heritage of their ancestors."

Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Balinese dancer. Thanks to Ey of Indonesia.

India - Kumbh Mela

"Kumbh Mela (the festival of the sacred Pitcher) is the largest peaceful congregation of pilgrims on earth, during which participants bathe or take a dip in a sacred river. Devotees believe that by bathing in the Ganges one is freed from sins liberating her/him from the cycle of birth and death. Millions of people reach the place without any invitation. The congregation includes ascetics, saints, sadhus, aspirants-kalpavasis and visitors. The festival is held at Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik every four years by rotation and is attended by millions of people irrespective of caste, creed or gender. Its primary bearers, however, belong to akhadas and ashrams, religious organizations, or are individuals living on alms. Kumbh Mela plays a central spiritual role in the country, exerting a mesmeric influence on ordinary Indians. The event encapsulates the science of astronomy, astrology, spirituality, ritualistic traditions, and social and cultural customs and practices, making it extremely rich in knowledge. As it is held in four different cities in India, it involves different social and cultural activities, making this a culturally diverse festival. Knowledge and skills related to the tradition are transmitted through ancient religious manuscripts, oral traditions, historical travelogues and texts produced by eminent historians. However, the teacher-student relationship of the sadhus in the ashrams and akhadas remains the most important method of imparting and safeguarding knowledge and skills relating to Kumbh Mela."

Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Naga Baba Kumbh Festival. I bought this postcard when I was travelling in India.

Thailand - Khon, masked dance drama in Thailand

"Khon, the Khon Masked Dance Drama in Thailand, is a performing art that combines musical, vocal, literary, dance, ritual and handicraft elements. Khon performances – which involve graceful dance movements, instrumental and vocal renditions and glittering costumes – depict the glory of Rama, the hero and incarnation of the god Vishnu, who brings order and justice to the world. The many episodes depict Rama’s life, including his journey in the forest, his army of monkeys, and his fights with the army of Thosakan, king of the giants. On one level, Khon represents high art cultivated by the Siamese/Thai courts over centuries, while at another level, as a dramatic performance, it can be interpreted and enjoyed by spectators from different social backgrounds. Khon has a strong didactic function, reinforcing respect for those of a higher age and status, mutual dependence between leaders and followers, the honour of rulers and the triumph of good over evil. Traditionally, Khon was transmitted in the royal or princely courts, and in dance masters’ households. Today, however, transmission occurs mostly in educational institutions, while still adhering largely to traditional methods. Concerted efforts are made to ensure the continuity of the practice, including through the establishment of training and performance clubs that help reach out to young people."

Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

I bought this Khon dance prepaid postcard with a matching printed stamp at Bangkok General Post Office in October 2018.

Malaysia - Dondang Sayang

"Dondang Sayang is a traditional Malay art still practised in Melaka by four communities: the Malay, Baba Nyonya, Chitty and Portuguese communities. The practice combines elements of music (violins, gongs and tambourines or the tambour), songs and chants, and features beautiful melodious strains of poetry. Also known as love ballads, the songs are used by communities to convey feelings of love and give advice on special topics such as love and kindness. During the Melaka Sultanate era in the fifteenth century, Dondang Sayang was performed at Royal Palace ceremonies and events; subsequently, the performance became widespread among the communities concerned. Based on tradition, Dondang Sayang performances are accompanied by music and sung by two singers of the opposite sex, who sing in quatrains. Typically, Dondang Sayang singers are individuals who are highly competent and skilled in poetry recitation. Dongdang Sayang performances are open to all, irrespective of age, occupation, status or religion, and the art is considered as a means of conveying positive messages and sharing feelings of love, joy and sorrow that strengthen community bonding. Performances are held on a regular basis, especially during gatherings, festivals and parties, and nowadays many cultural programmes, activities and training activities are organized for those interested in participating and improving their singing and performance skills."

Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Postcard 1
I bought this set of Straits Baba Nyonya wedding postcards in Penang.

Postcard 2

Postcard 3

Mexico - Charrería, equestrian tradition in Mexico

"Charrería is a traditional practice of livestock herding communities in Mexico. It was initially used to help herders managing livestock from different estates better coexist. Techniques were then passed on to younger generations within families. These days, purpose-built charrería associations and schools assist in continuing transmission of the tradition, also considered a sport, by training members of the community, including up to competition level. Various categories of charrería performed in front of an audience are called charreadas. Charreadas give spectators an opportunity to see livestock herding skills, for example roping and reining using wild mares and bulls. Trained herders demonstrate their abilities on foot or horseback while dressed in traditional costume that features a wide-brimmed hat for a charro (male herder) and a colourful shawl for a charra (female herder). The outfits, as well as equipment required for the practice, like saddles and spurs, are designed and produced by local artisans, forming additional components of the traditional practice. Charrería is considered an important aspect of the identity of bearer communties and their cultural heritage. Practitioners also see the tradition as a way of transferring to younger generations important social values, such as respect and equality for people in the community".

Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Charreria, started as control of cattle from laborers, and is now a national sport. Thanks to Marco of Austria for mailing from Mexico with an awesome stamp used.