INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE IN MALTA
The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage was ratified on 7th March 2017 after being approved by the Maltese Parliament with Motion 450. The fact that Malta wanted to ratify this Convention of 2003, sent a clear signal of the strong commitment towards the conservation and nourishment of collective memory and national identity.
Along with other international instruments that protect cultural heritage, the 2003 Convention is aimed at safeguarding the uses, representations, expressions, knowledge and techniques that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals, recognise as an integral part of their cultural heritage.
Malta’s geographic position, as an island in the centre of the Mediterranean, considered as the cradle of civilisations, has contributed to our vast history. Due to the island’s strategic importance, it has been dominated by most of the powers who occupied the Mediterranean. The history of a nation influences its Culture. Throughout the ages, we have inherited traditions from our rulers as well as from our neighbours. We have adopted and at times adapted what suited us and discarded what did not fit to our character. These influences are reflected in our language, our religion, habits and customs and craftsmanship. The fact that we have kept these traditions alive is proof of how important these traditions are to our Culture. The safeguard of our intangible heritage involves the effort of the people.
Though fragile, intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalisation. An understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities enhances intercultural dialogue, and encourages mutual respect towards other ways of life.
The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. The social and economic value of this transmission of knowledge is relevant for minority groups and for mainstream social groups within a State, and is as important for developing States as for developed ones.
ICH Malta encourages communities, entities and individuals to support elevating the National Inventory, by nominating through a guided process, any intangible cultural heritage elements which should be safeguarded. It is also possible for elements in the National Inventory to be nominated for inclusion in UNESCO's International Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Currently Malta has 12 intangible cultural heritage elements on the National Inventory List and 3 elements nominated to the lists of UNESCO, Il-Ftira, the culinary art and culture of flattened sourdough bread in Malta submitted in March 2019, Għana: Malta’s Folksong submitted in March 2020 and Festa Maltija submitted in March 2021. Il-Ftira has been enlisted by UNESCO on the Representative List of Humanity in December 2020.