Lonely Planet Writer

Unesco grants cultural status to traditions including reggae and the ancient Irish sport of hurling

When you listen to reggae artists like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff or Marcia Griffiths, remember that it’s a cultural experience. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) is adding the music genre that originated in Jamaica to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, along with the ancient Irish sport of hurling, Korean wrestling and Croatian folk music, among others.

Reggae music has spread to every corner of the globe. Image by Getty Images.

The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity documents cultural practices, expressions, knowledge, skills and traditions from around the world that are deserving of recognition. It was announced on Thursday that reggae music is one of the latest additions to be inscribed to the list. The music genre, which originated in the 1960s, is rooted in the Caribbean island nation’s rich culture and is considered an important part of its identity.

“Reggae is uniquely Jamaican,” said Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s culture minister, before the vote. “It is a music that we have created that has penetrated all corners of the world.” To celebrate reggae’s inclusion on the list, Jamaica is mounting public exhibitions and presentations on reggae music in museums and will celebrate Reggae Month in February, the birth month of Bob Marley.

Reggae, which was championed by artists like Bob Marley, has been added to Unesco’s list of cultural treasures. Image by Chris Walter/WireImage/Getty

The ancient Irish sports of hurling and camogie, which are among the oldest and fastest field sports in the world, were also recognised by the UN body. Unesco notes “hurling or camogie (a form of hurling played by women), is a field game played by two teams which dates back 2000 years and features strongly in Irish mythology.” It adds that hurling is considered “an intrinsic part of Irish culture and plays a central role in promoting health and wellbeing, inclusiveness and team spirit.”

Kilkenny and Cork battle it out in the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship Final 2018. Image by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Another sport that made it to the list is Korean wrestling, (ssirum as it’s known in the north/ssireum in the south), following a joint application by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea. Despite their vast differences, the democratic South and the communist North share the same language, culture and traditions dating back thousands of years.

Ssireum wrestlers compete during the 80kg qualifying round of the Korea Open Ssireum Festival in Andong. Image by ED JONES/AFP/Getty

South Korean President Moon Jae In hailed the decision, saying, “this is the first time that the South and the North have listed an intangible cultural heritage together. As such, it will be much easier to spread the originality of Korean traditional culture worldwide if the South and the North work together.”

As well as updating the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Unesco is also adding new inscriptions to its Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, which includes endangered elements of a culture that are at risk of fading away. Together, the two lists currently have 499 elements from 118 different countries.

The famous Spanish Horse Riding School at the Hofburg palace in Vienna, has been added to Unesco’s list of cultural traditions. Image by JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty

Other new additions include the horsemanship of the world-famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna; a Mongolian camel-coaxing ritual; a ritual in Japan known as Raiho-shin, which includes visits from deities in masks and costumes; traditional Georgian wrestling; a dancing and singing tradition in Jordan known as As-Samer; Czech puppetry and Međimurska popevka which is folk singing from Međimurje in the northwest of Croatia.

Additions to both lists from 40 proposals are currently being considered by a Unesco committee which is meeting in Port Louis, Mauritius from 26 November until 1 December. The full lists can be viewed here.