Intangible Cultural Heritage of Asia and the Pacific

Competition of epic performers © K. Poladov

Turkmenistan’s Inventory-Making Experience of ICH

Turkmenistan is vast country with rich, diverse, and deeply rooted oral and traditional cultures determined in terms of their interconnected relationship among humans, nature, and animals. The majority of the intangible aspects of Turkmen culture, like most indigenous cultures, are mainly unrecorded. The available materials on ICH existed in print or as photo and audio fragments from several resources without any documentation and classification.

The UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was ratified by the Parliament of Turkmenistan in 2011, and this has become a significant factor for further strengthening the legislative basis for safeguarding the rich intangible heritage of the Turkmen nation.

Convention, the Secretariat of the Turkmenistan National Commission for UNESCO initiated a national training workshop in 2011—with the participation of a wide range of specialists, including academics, performers, creators, folklore specialists, and related community members—to explain the scope of intangible heritage, the nature and objectives of the national inventory and data collection, and the criteria for designating properties as well as the classification of domains.

As a result, the National Inventory of the Intangible Heritage of Turkmenistan was initiated in 2011 and is currently being further developed. With the participation of scholars and folklore specialists, more than 140 elements have already been identified. The inventory facilitates the identification of existing traditional knowledge and cultural expressions as well as the customary owners within the five provinces of Turkmenistan. It is being regularly updated with data collected through field-based research surveys with close partnerships with the local communities and practitioners.

In Turkmenistan, intangible cultural property comprises five domains as summarized below:

  1. Oral expressions or oral folklore
  2. Traditions, customs, and folk beliefs
  3. Traditional performing arts
  4. Traditional craftsmanship
  5. Traditional knowledge

A fragment of the inventory format used in the traditional craftsmanship domain is given in table 1 as an example.

The Registration Card for a Turkmen ICH element on the National Inventory Form, which consists of six sections, is given in table 2.

According to the Convention (Article 13b), a national department, as a competent body for implementing specific policies to establish and administer an inventory and related activities as well as to safeguard and promote national intangible heritage, was created at the Ministry of Culture of Turkmenistan in 2014. The department is being financed from the state budget and has sufficient human resources, equipped with up-to date ICTs for data collection, processing, and retrieval. However, there is a need for trained professionals in to identify and document elements. It is necessary to adopt standardized recording and retrieval formats and software systems for the preservation, use, and dissemination of collected data and documented materials.

Moreover, a national registry of potential elements, including the Turkmen epic art of Gorogly, Turkmen carpet making, and the art of breeding Akhalteke horses, for possible inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, has been established. Thus far, a nomination file for the art of Gorogly has been prepared and submitted for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2015.

The Parliament of Turkmenistan has initiated an elaboration of the Turkmenistan Law for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the Turkmen Nation in 2013.

Turkmenistan implements cultural cooperation programs to promote ICH by organizing international scientific conferences, folklore festivals, and mass-media campaigns with the participation of international and local researchers, scholars, and community members by developing educational and advertising materials for young people to encourage the transmission of intangible heritage from one generation to the next.

Table 1. Sample Inventory Format
Identifier Section & Subsection ICH Domain and Element Name
4 Traditional craftsmanship
4.1 Handicrafts
4.1.1 Carpet making art
4.1.1.1 Methods of carpet making
4.1.1.2 Technologies of carpet making
4.1.1.3 Preparation of carpet making equipment
4.1.1.4 Preparation of required raw materials for carpet making
4.1.1.5 Wool processing methods
4.1.1.6 Wool dyeing methods
4.1.1.7 Spinning methods
To be continued and updated
4.1.2 Rags (keche) making
4.1.2.1 Methods of rag making
4.1.2.2 Preparation of raw materials and equipment for rag making
4.1.3 Palas (napless woven woolen carpet)
4.1.3.1 Methods of palas making
4.1.3.2 Preparation of raw materials and equipment for palas making
To be continued and updated
4.1.4 Embroidery
4.1.4.1 Embroidery methods
4.1.4.2 Preparation of required raw materials for embroidery
To be continued and updated
4.2 Craftsmanship
4.2.1 Jewelry
4.2.2 Tinnery
4.2.3 Metal ware
4.2.4 Dutar and other musical instruments making
4.2.5 Pottery
4.2.6 Carpentry
4.2.7 Donkey cart making
4.2.8 Leather processing
4.2.9 Wool processing
4.2.10 Goat wool processing
To be continued and updated

Table 2. Registration Card for Turkmen ICH Elements
Name of the element:
1. Identification of the element
1.1. Name of the element, as used by the community or group concerned
1.2. Community concerned
1.3. Physical location of the element
1.4. Short description
2. Characteristics of the element
2.1. Associated intangible elements
2.2. Associated tangible elements
2.3. Languages, registers, speech levels involved
2.4. Perceived origin
3. Persons and institutions involved with the element
3.1. Practitioner(s)/performer(s): names, age, gender, social status, and/or professional category, etc.
3.2. Other participants (e.g. holders/custodians)
3.3. Customary practices governing access to the element or to aspects of it
3.4. Concerned organizations (NGOs and others)
4. State of the element: viability
4.1. Threats to the enactment
4.2. Threats to the transmission
4.3. Availability of associated tangible elements and resources
4.4. Viability of associated tangible and intangible elements
4.5. Safeguarding measures in place
5. Data gathering and inventorying
5.1. Resource person(s): name and status of affiliation
5.2. Data and place of data gathering
5.3. Date of entering data into a Registration Card
5.4. The Registration Card compiled by
6. References to literature, discography, audiovisual materials, archives
6.1. List of scientific and popular literature
6.2. Audiovisual documentation
6.3. Video documentation
6.4. Archives