6 December 2012Ala-kiyiz and Shyrdak, art of Kyrgyz traditional felt carpets, inscribed into the UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. This inscription was decided by the 24 Member States of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage, which held its 7th session in UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 3 to 7 December 2012.
Traditional felt carpets are one of the foremost arts of the Kyrgyz people and an integral part of their cultural heritage. The Kyrgyz traditionally produce two types of felt carpets: Ala-kiyiz and Shyrdaks. Knowledge, skills, diversity, the semantics of ornamentation, and the ceremonies of creating carpets are all important cultural components, providing Kyrgyz people with a sense of identity and continuity.
The making of Kyrgyz felt carpets is inseparably linked to the everyday life of nomads, who used felt carpets to warm and decorate their homes. Creation of felt carpets demands unity among the community and fosters the transmission of traditional knowledge – as a rule by older women concentrated in rural, mountainous areas, to younger women within the family.
The Ala-Kiyiz and Shyrdak traditional art is however in danger of disappearing. The number of practitioners is diminishing, with most over 40 years of age. The lack of governmental safeguarding, the disinterest of the younger generation, the dominance of inexpensive synthetic carpets, and the poor quality and low availability of raw materials are exacerbating the situation. As a result, Ala-kiyiz carpets have practically disappeared from Kyrgyz homes and Shyrdaks are under serious threat of being lost.
Kyrgyz Republic ratifies the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2006 and in June 2012 became the member of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage.