Posts Tagged ‘unesco’

Photo: Reuters/Albert Gea.
Reuters shows Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona starting “to form a human tower called ‘castell’ during a biannual human tower competition in Tarragona, Spain, October 2, 2022.

You don’t have to be a kid to play. Here’s a story on grown-ups having fun like kids. Of course, there are a few kids along with them, setting the proper tone for playtime.

Alan Ruiz Terol reports at Public Radio International’s The World, “A human tower rising higher than 26 feet swung perilously as 7-year-old Mar Mollà reached its top amid cheers from the crowd. 

“ ‘The views were great,’ she said later. ‘I could see all the colors and the arena vibrating.’

“[Recently] the town of Tarragona, in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia, hosted a massive tournament featuring the finest teams of human tower builders, or castellers. …

“One of the teams competing on Saturday was the Castellers de la Vila de Gràcia. Mar Mollà was one its youngest members. She also had one of the most difficult tasks. As she made her way up to the top of the castell on Saturday, her father, Daniel Mollà, watched nervously.

“ ‘I was worried,’ he explained, minutes later. ‘But it’s up to her; she’s the one who knows if [the castell] will fall or not.’

“To build a castell, dozens of people must stand at the base pressed against each other to provide stability, and, if things go wrong, a safety net. Others venture upward, climbing and being climbed over; forming one tier, and then another, and another. Finally, a kid crowns the human tower by raising a hand.

“Human towers are graded according to their height and difficulty. To get the full score, crowning the castell is not enough — it must be dismantled without collapsing. While falls are rare, they do occur, and kids wear helmets to avoid severe injuries. …

“Human towers are a centuries-old tradition in Catalonia, and are widely seen as a symbol of its own distinct culture and nationalist aspirations. …

“ ‘The oldest reference to castells dates back to 1791, to a local festival in the town of Valls,’ historian Àlex Cervelló said. 

“Human towers are thought to be a spin-off of a religious dance that featured acrobatic constructions known as Ball de Valencians. According to Cervelló, participants might have competed against each other, building higher and more complex structures, until castells became a separate tradition. …

“Following the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, the Francisco Franco dictatorship tried to deprive castells of any hint of Catalan nationalism, Cervelló said, as part of its persecution of political dissidence.

“In the 1980s, shortly after Franco’s death, teams of castellers began incorporating women, making it possible to build towers of unprecedented height, and kickstarting a golden era.

“In 2010, the UNESCO recognized castells as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. …

“Júlia Pozo, who looks after the youngest members of the Castellers de la Vila de Gràcia, praised the bravery of Mollà and other kids climbing to the top of castells. Ultimately, she said, they’re the ones who decide whether a castell is crowned.

“ ‘If they are afraid and don’t want to climb, they let us know, and we either try to find someone else, or we dismantle it,’ Pozo said. 

“But some, she said, will venture upward even if they are afraid, pulled by their ‘casteller spirit.’ ” 

Be sure to click at the World, here, and enjoy the happy grins on faces old and young.

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Photo: Taylor Luck.
Elders in Salt, Jordan, play a daily game of backgammon in the town square. Salt is a new UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is known for remarkable hospitality.

Pretty much every religion adjures believers to welcome the stranger, but every day we see that the size of the need overwhelms even those who have not forgotten about that. Except in Salt, Jordan.

Taylor Luck writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Welcome to the world’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, a breezy hillside town perched above the Jordan Valley that is celebrated for, well, its legendary hospitality.

“In Salt, history and economics have helped create a unique mix of cultures and faiths and a harmony of yellow-gold stone buildings and community. Don’t believe it? Simply ask the city’s elders.

“You can find them every day gathered in the Ain Plaza, formerly the site of fresh springs and now the town square in the twin shadows of Salt’s Great Mosque and Anglican Church. They will gladly tell you how their hospitality and way of life were passed from generation to generation – if they have time.

“For most of the day, they huddle around stone tables locked in intense games of backgammon and mancala, exhibiting the steely concentration of professional athletes. They say they welcome the UNESCO designation as a chance to share what they call ‘hospitality and harmony’ with the world.

“ ‘Here we welcome all, and we embrace every person,’ says Abu Ali, awaiting his turn at backgammon. He pointed to his compatriots of different faiths and tribes embroiled in matches. 

‘We don’t see Muslim, Christian, tribes, or urbanites – we see each other’s humanity, and the humanity in all who visit.’

“Dating back to the Iron Age, Salt is located strategically on the trade and pilgrimage routes between Damascus and Jerusalem, and between the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Peninsula. The agricultural village grew into a flourishing hillside city in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, attracting residents from across the Levant, Turkey, Arabia, the Caucasus, and west Asia.

“The constant, diverse flow of visitors and merchants created neighborhoods in which each street and hill had a mix of Christians and Muslims – Palestinians, Syrians, Turks, Circassians, Chechens, and members of local tribes all building their homes together.

“For centuries, Salt families would house and feed travelers, including merchants, Christian pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, or Muslims heading east for the Hajj – offering at least three days of lodging, no questions asked.

“Not a single hotel was built in the town, as it was considered ‘shameful’ not to host a guest in one’s home. Only in the past two years have guest-houses emerged; but the idea of a guest paying for lodging is still highly controversial.

“ ‘Please have lunch with me,’ strangers told Jordanian visitors and a reporter, during a visit in mid-August.

“In its announcement in late July that Salt had been added to the World Heritage list, UNESCO highlighted the city’s unique makeup as a ‘Place of Tolerance and Urban Hospitality.’

“ ‘In Salt, there is not a single area here that is segregated by race, religion, or origin,’ says former Mayor Khaled Al Khashman. ‘This is very rare in this region and, historically, rare in the world.’

“The town’s traditional architecture has long encouraged community. Most of Salt’s yellow sandstone homes consisted of a single room with a domed roof, with two or four homes sharing a communal courtyard, walls, rooftop, and entrance.

“Families would sit in their communal courtyard, cooking or drinking evening tea together while their children played. Neighbors shared food, drink, and supplies, and took part in each other’s celebrations, religious holidays, and family milestones. The layout meant neighbors were often closer than blood relatives. …

“Salt resident Nadia Abu Samen, a Muslim, restored one of these compounds. … She says her mother was raised by her family’s Christian neighbors, and her uncles and aunts were given Christian first names to honor their neighbors.

“For the past decade Ms. Abu Samen has carefully preserved an abandoned compound of four joined rooms – two homes belonging to Christian families, two homes belonging to Muslim families – and turned them into a cultural center, exhibition, and cafe. She traces Salt’s trademark harmony to the ‘uniform simplicity of traditional life.’ ” More at the Monitor, here.

If your ethnicity or religion is not mentioned in the article, I hope you will visit sometime and let us know if you were welcomed. A town that has been given such a high award for hospitality has a reputation to uphold!

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Chalk up another one for art and culture. According to Lisa Contag at the website Blouin Art Info, a UNESCO study has found evidence that art and culture improve safety in cities, in part by building social cohesion.

She writes, “UNESCO makes a strong case for systematically fostering culture in city planning in its new ‘Global Report, Culture: Urban Future.’ …

“In more than 100 case studies, the survey analyzes the situations, risks, and potentials for cities in a number of regional contexts, with a particular interest also in Africa and Asia, where urbanization is expected to continue increasing rapidly in the next decades.

“ ‘Culture lies at the heart of urban renewal and innovation. This report provides a wealth of insights and concrete evidence showing the power of culture as a strategic asset for creating cities that are more inclusive, creative and sustainable,’ Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO noted in a statement, stressing that ‘culture gives cities social and economic power,’ especially with the help of the creative industries.

“As an example, the report refers to Shanghai, China, which has held the status of a UNESCO Creative City of Design since 2010, and is considered ‘one of the world’s major creative centers, with more than 7.4% of residents employed in the creative industries.’

“Cities in conflict and post-conflict situations, such as Samarra, Iraq, which was confronted with the destruction of a number of invaluable sites such as the Al-Askari Shrine in 2006, are also taken into consideration and seem to benefit similarly. ‘Reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts have demonstrated the ability of culture to restore social cohesion between communities and improve livelihoods, paving the way for dialogue and reconciliation,’ the authors explain.”

The authors observe that culturally diverse, safe, and thriving cities are people-centered and culture-centered and feature policy-making that builds on culture.

More here.

Screenshot from Reza’s UNESCO video “Culture – the Soul of Cities”

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As I mentioned the other day in the post about the Latin newscast on Finnish radio, I am interested in endangered languages.

Now a composer who is also interested has melded voices of  threatened languages with his music.

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim writes at the NY Times that the “Vanishing Languages” project by Kevin James, “a New York-based trombonist and composer, is a rare hybrid of conservation effort and memorial, new music and ancient languages.

“Prodded by Unesco statistics that predict that by the end of the century half of the world’s 6,000 languages will be extinct, Mr. James spent months in the field tracking down and recording the last remaining speakers of four critically endangered tongues: Hokkaido Ainu, an aboriginal language from northern Japan, the American Indian Quileute from western Washington, and Dalabon and Jawoyn, aboriginal languages from Arnhem Land in Australia.”

Reviewing a concert James gave at a New York venue, da Fonseca-Wollheim says, “ ‘Counting in Quileute,’ which opens with bells struck and bowed and swung in the air and ends with the ring of a Buddhist prayer bowl, had a strong ritualistic feel to it.

“The often puzzling actions of the players — flutists whispering into mouthpieces, a cellist tapping with both hands on the fingerboard as if playing a recorder — appeared like a secret choreography designed to bring forth the voices of the dead filtered through the crackle of old phonographs.

“The imperfections of these old recordings, which Mr. James used alongside those he made recently in the field, show how heavily smudged the window is that we have on these vanishing cultures. And yet at times it seemed as if it were these voices who were willing the performance into existence.” (Isn’t da Fonseca-Wollheim a lovely writer?) More.

For a couple other blog discussions of endangered language, click here or here.

Photo: Ruby Washington/The New York Times
Leah Scholes of Speak Percussion using a double bass bow to play a bowl as part of “Vanishing Languages.”

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