Eleven Endangered Traditions from Around the World

Whimsical illustrations inspired by UNESCO’s list of ‘intangible cultural heritage’.

Maptia
Maptia
Apr 25, 2014 · 7 min read

The sum total of all ideas, dreams, legends, rituals brought into the world by the mankind since the dawn of our time—this is our ‘ethnosphere’. This is humanity’s great legacy.

As Wade Davis describes, some of this legacy is expressed in physical objects or impressive constructions, for example the man-made wonders of the world. However other aspects can be less tangible, living cultural expressions that have been passed down through generations and contribute to our collective sense of identity and community. Whether these expressions take the form of rituals, festivities, skills, dance or knowledge—they elicit certain emotions within us or make us feel a sense of belonging. It is an unavoidable truth of modernity that, along with many of the benefits that globalisation has brought to society, it is also causing some of our gloriously diverse cultural heritage to be lost.

“In the end, then, it really comes down to a choice: do we want to live in a monochromatic world of monotony or do we want to embrace a polychromatic world of diversity?” — Wade Davis

UNESCO are currently safeguarding and attempting to preserve 298 traditions that they have listed as ‘intangible cultural heritage’. We illustrated eleven of the most intriguing and delightful examples from this endangered extravagant ethnographic record as a gentle reminder that there are an infinite number of ways of thinking and orientating yourself on this pale blue dot we call home. Huge thanks to Ella Frances Sanders for providing the illustrations.

1 | Vanuatu Sand Drawing

2 | Generational Vietnamese Gongs

3 | The Hopping Procession of Echternach

4 | Chinese Shadow Puppetry

5 | Chinese Wooden Movable-Type Printing

6 | Croatian Gingerbread Making

7 | Turkish Oil Wrestling Festival

8 | Tsiattista Poetic Duelling

9 | Tibetan Opera

“Today, we are going through a critical period in time… protecting an ancient culture like this is the responsibility not only of the concerned nation, but also of the world community as a whole.”

— His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

10 | Yamahoko Moving Museums

11 | Catalonian Human Towers

If you click recommend below please leave a note saying why you enjoyed it—which traditions did you find the most intriguing?

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