The undarstanding of the cultural heritage has expanded considerably over the past decades and has been created the concept of intangible cultural heritage This type of heritage refers to knowledge, skills, customs and practices transferred from generation to generation (or from a teacher) and is used today. To emphasise that intangible cultural heritage is an important part of our lives right now and that it varies according to people and circumstances, it is also called live inheritance.
Skills, experience and knowledge cannot be tackled, so we call them intangible. In contrast, the intangible heritage as a living inheritance cannot be separated from human life – working in the garden, preparing to eat and celebrating festivals, we often use the experience gained in the family, without knowing it in particular. The intangible heritage is an important link to his family and the Community. This gives us a sense of continuity and belonging. The existence of intangible cultural heritage is based on continuous practice and transfer.
In 2003 UNESCO Convention of the Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage (hereinafter referred to as the Convention), stressing that any Member State adopting the Convention is responsible for the inheritance of intangible cultural heritage and for the preservation of cultural diversity as opposed to the standardisation of cultural heritage. UNESCO recognises as intangible cultural heritage “forms of customs, games and oral expression, knowledge and skills and related instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces recognised by the Communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals as part of their cultural heritage”.
THE UNESCO Convention emphasises that it is for each Community to determine the knowledge, skills, customs and practices of its intangible cultural heritage. It may remain unchanged for a long time or change depending on the needs of the time. Although the root of the intangible cultural heritage is found in the past, the living heritage of modern people is also important. In a rapidly changing world, it is important to ensure the preservation of the essential knowledge of the Community. If necessary, measures must be taken to protect it and care must be taken to ensure that these knowledge is transferred to the public, especially the younger generations.
By August 2020, 180 countries had ratified the Convention from more than 200 countries. Latvia was the eighth country to ratify the Convention (14 January 2005).
As regards intangible cultural heritage, several key words are mentioned: Community, inheritance, protection.
The Community is any group of people who have a shared intangible cultural heritage – knowledge, values, perception or customs. A sense of farming and a common intangible heritage are formed for people with similar origin, occupation or interests. Today's means of communication contribute to the creation and interaction of such Communities. Each of us can belong to a number of Communities at the same time – we, for example, often feel associated with the place of birth and the Community, also living elsewhere. Another Community is developing in the context of professional activities, another with our hobbies. The family is also a small (or sometimes large) Community. The Community is also the population of one country. The Community plays a key role in safeguarding and protecting intangible cultural heritage. The skills and knowledge of any Community intangible cultural heritage shall not necessarily be understood and used by all members of the Community. But it is important that they respect them and recognise their identity as essential.
Skills and knowledge exist just as long as they have a place in human life: while they are stored, used, assessed and passed on. They disappear when they have no need for them. As a result of social change, some knowledge or skills that can still be topical for society, however, gradually disappear and the number of people whose heritage and knowledge are in decline. You must then look for ways to stop this process. The Community itself is the most important. It is the Community who is best able to assess which skills need more attention, how it is best to preserve and deliver it to future generations.
The intangible cultural heritage often does not need protection because it is a natural part of our life: the celebration of family or community festivals, cooking, whether or not we have learned from parents or friends. It is only when social change starts to reduce any of our daily knowledge, skills, habits, or custom, and it becomes clear that it is still a vital part of our lives, so we must find a way to protect these knowledge and skills.
However, intangible cultural heritage cannot be protected in the same way as material culture, monuments, historical sites or natural areas. The intangible heritage is alive, it is changing and each generation adjusts it to its needs. The inheritance that has lost the meaning in the Community's eyes is slowly disappearing. The Community itself is best able to assess which knowledge and skills need more attention and how to ensure that they are survived. It is important for many skills that they are to be learned under the guidance of an experienced master or teacher. However, school and non-formal education – courses, training, camps, etc. – also play an important role.
UNESCO forms international lists to promote the values of living cultural heritage and share experience. In the UNESCO lists, 584 values from 131 countries of the world had been recorded by January 2021. Latvia in those lists has been mentioned twice – in 2003 Tradition and symbolism of song and dance festivals In Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania was recognised as a Masterpiece of the oral and intangible cultural heritage of humanity (listed in 2008 in the UNESCO Representative list of intangible cultural heritage) and in 2009 The Suitu cultural space was included in the UNESCO List of intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding Suiti Cultural Space. In 2022, THE representative list of UNESCO mankind intangible cultural heritage includes the “tree float” element, which is also represented by: The craft skills of Gauja raftsmen.
On the implementation of the Convention In Latvia the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia and the Latvian National Cultural Centre of Latvia shall be responsible. In order to strengthen the implementation of the principles of the Convention at national level, on 29 September 2016, the Intangible Cultural Heritage Law. The Law provides for the establishment of a list of intangible cultural heritage of Latvia, which includes elements of intangible cultural heritage, or values which are recognised as a national protected cultural heritage and the inclusion of which is a broad support and participation of the relevant Community. List of Latvian National Intangible Cultural Heritage it is a tradition of the Community and intangible cultural heritage which assesses applications. From 2017 until 2022, the list of Latvian intangible cultural heritage includes 32 values:
Psalm singing in Northern Latgale
Singing with "pusbolss"
Performance of the Office of the Dead (saļmi) in the Vabole and Līksna parishes
Sigulda walking stick craftsmanship
The tradition of playing the Latgale bubyns frame drum
The tradition of crafting and playing the Ieviņš type harmonica
Latvian melodic zither performance
St. Petersburg harmonica performance traditions
The craft skills of Gauja raftsmen
Reversible double-weaved graded colour blanket weaving in Northern Vidzeme
The skill of bobbin lace making
The Livonian cultural space
The Rucava traditional cultural space
The Upīte cultural space
Lamprey fishing and preparation skills in Carnikava
The traditional wedding rituals of the Eastern Orthodox believers of the Pededze parish
May Catholic services by wayside crosses in the Andrupene and Šķaune parishes of the Dagda municipality
May singing services by wayside crosses in Northern Latgale
Glass blowing in Līvāni
Knitting of patterned double mittens in Mazsalaca
The tradition of crafting and playing the “dūru” zither
Weawing with the Peteris Viļumsons’ rapier-type looms
Dancing tradition in Riga
The Weaving of Patterned Zemgale Skirts Using Drawlooms.
“Puzuri” and the craft of making them in Jelgava
Latvian card game zolte
Crumbs in Sturneen. Traditional psalm and funeral singing in Stirniene
Traditions and skills of knitting Latvian ethnographic mittens
Vidzeme Livonian Culture
Church cultural space
Latvian Old Believers' Church of Pomorian Church (Знаменный распев)
Weaving of the belts in Sigulda municipality in a patterned tissue pulse technique
In accordance with the Intangible Cultural Heritage Law adopted in 2016, the Latvian National Inventory also includes The Tradition and symbolism of songs and dance festivals in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as The Suiti cultural space.