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Folk Tradition Bearers

 

The “Folk Tradition Bearers” system is a project through which the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic contributes towards achieving the principles of the “Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore“ document issued at the 25th UNESCO General Conference in 1989.

 

The actual content of the project is inspired by a UNESCO pilot project entitled “Living Human Treasures”, the aim of which is to create a comprehensive programme of care to prevent the disappearance of endangered phenomena of traditional culture and their bearers.

In the Czech Republic, this project took the form of systematic care for traditional production technology and those who are experts in it. A system was created in 2000 under the name of Folk Tradition Bearers, the aim of which is to recognize producers with a technical mastery of unique forms of technology used in folk production that are at risk of extinction and to let the public know about them. In addition to preserving this technology, they also take an active part in promoting and passing on production techniques to their pupils and successors.

The Minister of Culture of the Czech Republic has, since the inception of the project, recognized more than fifty producers from across the board of traditional production technology. Among them we can number potters, smiths, carvers, hatchet men, weavers, embroiderers, basket makers, cobblers and a unique stone grinder maker.

The title of Folk Tradition Bearer is presented every year on the prestigious occasion of the national launch of European Cultural Heritage Days in the Czech Republic.

The encouraging resultes of the project and effort to present them on the ground on which the whole idea of preserving the intangible cultural heritage was born gave rise to the idea of presenting the award-winning producers at UNESCO headquarters.

An exhibition going by the name of HOMO FABER therefore opened in February 2009 at the Salle des Pas Perdus in UNESCO in Paris. The ceremonial opening of the exhibition was attended by UNESCO Director-General and Minister of   Culture of the Czech Republic.

The exhibition also involved practical examples of production, creative workshops and a screening of the work of all award-winners. The deserved attention the exhibition enjoyed in France continued after its return home. It was installed in the Musaion building of the National Museum in Prague, followed by the Czech Centre in Warsaw and a whole host of other museums and galleries in the Czech Republic.

 

The aim of the Folk Tradition Bearers project is not, of course, simply to publicly recognize individual producers. We also aim to promote and put on view traditional crafts and the products made so that they can again become part of everyday culture – inside buildings, on clothing and in everyday goods.

Only in this way can we guarantee that they will continue to be a living part of our culture and not merely interesting museum exhibits

 

Author and photographer: Martin Šimša, National Institute of Folk Architecture

 

 

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