In the presence of First Lady, Asma Al-Assad, and on the occasion of the enlisting of the first Syrian element of intangible heritage on the World Human Heritage list, the Syrian National Commission for UNESCO and Syria Trust Development, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, launched the “Zilal” event in the historic Tekkiye Mosque Complex. The event was held on Saturday, 16/3/2019 with the participation of people concerned and interested in the Syrian heritage, including craftsmen, musicians, and farmers from the governorates of Damascus, Rural Damascus, and Aleppo, in addition to a number of government representatives.
The event aimed at introducing the Syrian intangible cultural heritage and strengthening the essential role of local community in preserving, promoting, celebrating their cultural heritage, and in celebration of "Shadow Play tradition", which was enlisted in November 2019 on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list due to urgent need of its safeguarding. Participants in “Thilal” event stressed the importance of nominating the Syrian intangible cultural heritage elements to the World Heritage Lists.
Mr. Fares Kallas, the Secretary General of the Syria Development Trust, said, “Although NGOs, associations, and government bodies play an important role in strengthening the Syrian cultural heritage, this heritage belongs to our communities, which include craftsmen, artists, farmers, musicians, writers, poets and others. These are the only ones who give our heritage this depth and true meaning, and they are the ones who can ensure the preservation of their cultural treasures.”
A variety of activities were presented during this diverse event, which started with a live performance of a Shadow theatre piece by Shadi Hallaq, the last of Syrian puppeteer. During his performance, Hallaq stressed the value of the Syrian Heritage and the importance of preserving it and introducing it to the world as a testament of the renowned Syrian cultural identity. The event also included an Oud ensemble by teachers and students from Solhi Al-Wadi Institute. Following all that, singer Safwan Al-Abed and his band gave a Qudud Halabiya performance that featured the child Ziad Amona.
Moreover, an exhibition was opened for the Syrian oud instruments, which varied due to each craftsman’s techniques, let alone the exhibition of Shadow Play pieces available in Azm Palace (Museum of Popular Traditions) alongside with some rare pieces which document the Shadow Play figures from Arwad School in the Syrian coast, in addition to a Shadow Play screen featuring the name of master Suleiman in Arwad Island. These Arwad School pieces reportedly belong to the Commodore Hussein Salim Hijazi who documented this element back in the 1960s.
Finally, Mr. Fares Kallas said that Living Heritage Program is currently working on preparing the files for the nomination of Oud industry to be inscribed on the UNESCO 2020 representative list, while the next Syrian element nominated for inscription is “Practices and Craftsmanship Associated with the Damascene Rose,” to be evaluated by the UNESCO in December.