The recognized values of the World heritage cultural and natural sites are mainly tangible. They relate to physical attributes identified by researchers and experts during the nomination process and reflected in Statement of the Outstanding Universal Value. These values might be an archaeological site, the fabric of a historic town, the architecture of a monument, the geological features of a mountain or the biological diversity of a forest or a coastal site. Thus, the information conveyed by the site that justify the criteria for inscription rely primarily on these tangible attributes.
Third of the inscribed sites on the World heritage List are “directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance” (criterion vi).
However, the processes through which “intangible values” are identified, selected and formulated may be politically influenced or oriented. As heritage-making is embodied in social processes, values might be diverse and even dissonant. Some of these values are silenced and do not contribute to the interpretation of the site as they are not considered as of “outstanding universal significance”. Moreover, values change over time: some may rise and others decrease at different moments in the life of a heritage site.
The present Associate Theme on “Intangible values” aims to discuss the importance of this set of “invisible” values for the understanding of heritage sites. It seeks the participation of diverse actors, including youth, for a more inclusive interpretation of the sites.
Ahmed Skounti, Professor, Institut national des sciences de l’archéologie et du patrimoine (INSAP), Maroc.
Loubna Tahiri, PhD Student, Institut national des sciences de l’archéologie et du patrimoine (INSAP), Maroc.
PROGRAM & SPEAKERS
1. From a natural site to a cultural landscape: the cultural landscape of Lake Chad (cross-border site shared between Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad) by Alice Biada
Cradle of a thousand-year-old civilization, the Lake Chad basin is a unifying element of the communities of North Africa and those of the South of the Sahara. It is a source of life for more than 45 million populations. For four decades, the site has faced unprecedented changes affecting its natural and cultural resources. Having understood the challenges, the countries concerned submitted this site for inscription on the World Heritage List. Originally appearing as a natural site on the tentative lists, its cultural values, including intangible ones, are better recognized.
2. Tangible and intangible values of sites: the example of Quebec City, Canada by Laurier Turgeon
From the World Heritage Site of Quebec City, we start from the hypothesis that the sites represent, to varying degrees, a wide range of values either material (landscapes, buildings, monuments, objects) or intangible (memories, oral stories, rituals, festivals, know-how, values, smells), physical or spiritual, all of which give meaning, value, emotion and mystery to the place. Rather than separating the intangible from the material, we want to explore the different ways in which the two are united in close interaction. Considered in its relational dynamic, the site thus takes on a plural and versatile character, and can have several meanings and singularities, change meaning over time and be shared by several groups. This approach, which prompts us to question the governing concept of “Outstanding universal value”, is more dynamic and better suited to a globalized world, characterized more and more by transnational migrations, relocated populations, intercultural contacts and societies with multicultural and multiple affiliation.
3. The Bassari : the intangible as the foundation of the cultural landscape by Abdoul Aziz Guissé
The Bassari, Peul and Bedik cultural landscapes are characterized by a fusional relationship between Humans and Nature. Indeed, the communities living in these three cultural areas offer exceptional testimony to the interaction in their agro-pastoral, social, ritual and spiritual practices in a hostile environment. Beliefs and practices, knowledge related to nature, know-how in the field of architecture, agro-pastoral activities and utilitarian crafts have enabled these ethnic minorities to survive in human settlements in the highlands for centuries. Today, the functional occupation of the space between the historic villages and the new areas of agriculture and subsistence farming on the alluvial plains at the bottom of the hills gives these cultural landscapes this specific character of a successful symbiosis between the intangible and the material.
4. Immovable cultural heritage is not just stones! by Mustapha Khanoussi
Although watermarked in the text of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage Convention and retained as one of the ten criteria adopted in the Operational Guidelines to justify inscription, and more than 25 years after the Nara Conference on Authenticity, the potential intangible values of World Heritage sites have often been overlooked in the preparation of nomination files for the List and obscured in the drafting of statements of Outstanding Universal Value of inscribed properties. It would therefore be highly desirable to recommend that, in the future, better consideration of these values be ensured in the files of new nominations and to propose their retrospective consideration for properties already inscribed. The 50th anniversary of the Convention, which will be celebrated in 2022, presents an excellent opportunity to do so.
5. Medina of Fez, World Heritage Site: the artisans of renewal by Naima Lahbil Tagemouati
The approach in terms of differences, paradoxically ends up erasing, in part, the first term of the comparison. Thus, when I compare A and B, I forget the specificities of A, and the work consists in finding what it lacks to become similar to B. This approach, applied most often to the craftsman, produces the list of his shortcomings in becoming an archetypal entrepreneur. But what have we learned about the craftsman? What do we know about him besides what he lacks? Nothing or so little about its specificity, its system of values and attitudes towards the world. In this intervention on the medina of Fez, I draw attention to these intangible values, insufficiently taken into account, on the dialectic between the medinal space and the actors of the craft world. I plead for a form of companionship between researchers and craftsmen, for knowledge per se, freed from the distorting mirror of comparison.