Unesco lists rickshaws and rickshaw art as ‘intangible heritage’

Abu Sufian

Bangladesh’s rickshaws and rickshaw paintings have been recognised as intangible cultural heritage by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) today.

The global recognition was given at the ongoing 18th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Botswana.

“In Dhaka, the rickshaw is a small, hand-made passenger vehicle that is pulled by one person.

Ornate rickshaws are emblematic of urban life in Dhaka, resulting in exhibitions and festivities and often featuring in films and other artworks.

The traditional process of fashioning and painting rickshaws is transmitted in workshops and within families, respectively,” Unesco said in a statement.

“Rickshaws and rickshaw painting are viewed as a key part of the city’s cultural tradition and a dynamic form of urban folk art, providing inhabitants with a sense of shared identity and continuity,” it added.

The UN agency further said: “Traditionally made by hand by a small group of craftsmen, almost every part of a rickshaw is painted with colourful floral patterns,

natural imagery, birds and animals, creative depictions of historical events, fables, national heroes, movie stars and text. Rickshaws are also decorated extensively with tassels,

plastic flowers and tinsel. As they are slow-moving vehicles, the paintings and decorations are easily visible to onlookers, thus becoming a roving exhibition.”

“Decorated rickshaws are emblematic of urban life in Dhaka, resulting in exhibitions and festive events and often featuring in films and other artworks.

The traditional process of fashioning rickshaws is transmitted by craftsmen in rickshaw workshops, orally and through hands-on training,” it added.

“Rickshaw painting artists work on commission and usually pass on their knowledge and skills to their children and close relatives. While all rickshaw craftsmen are men,

painters include men and women. Rickshaws and rickshaw painting are viewed as a key part of the city’s cultural tradition and a dynamic form of urban folk art,

providing inhabitants with a sense of shared identity and continuity,” Unesco said.

The eighteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is taking place at Cresta Mowana Resort in Kasane, Republic of Botswana from 4-9 December.

“We have come together to celebrate the incredible richness of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage, and to reaffirm its power for social cohesion,

human dignity and peace,” Unesco Assistant Director General for Culture Ernesto Ottone said.

“This session of the Committee takes place under the overall umbrella of the twentieth anniversary of the 2003 Convention,

and therefore each item offers us an opportunity to reflect on all that has been achieved in the past twenty years, and all that still remains to be pursued,” he added.


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