This morning, UNESCO declared the puppets of Estremoz as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Meeting in South Korea, the committee needed only five minutes to analyse and approve the application launched by the Alentejo municipality.
With over 300 years of history, the figurines of Estremoz have inventoried over 100 different figures, and represent for UNESCO the “vision of the artist, the craftsman, about his surroundings. Hand-modelled in clay, fired and polychrome, the Estremoz figurines are made according to the same technique that was already used at least in the 18th century.
Since 2011, when Fado was considered Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, every year Portugal inscribes more traditions, buildings and complexes on the exclusive UNESCO list. In 2012, it was the largest fortress in the world, Elvas, that won the World Heritage label.
In fact, in these six years, the Alentejo has been recognised four times (five times, if we consider the Mediterranean diet) as a material or intangible heritage site. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded the seal of World Heritage to the cante alentejano in 2014 and, a year later, placed the manufacture of Chocalhos on the list of heritage in need of urgent safeguarding.
Ceia da Silva, the president of Alentejo Tourism, said in reaction to the inscription of the clay figurines from Estremoz as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, that the preservation and dissemination of the region’s identity is a strategic bet. “I say many times and I repeat: when tourists go to the Alentejo they go to find that which is more identity, which is more authentic, which is more genuine, and having obtained five consecutive seals is unique in the world.”
The application was presented by Estremoz Municipal Council and coordinated by Hugo Guerreiro, director of the Municipal Museum. In Estremoz, currently working on this emblematic art are Afonso and Matilde Ginja, Célia Freitas, Duarte Catela, Fátima Estróia, Irmãs Flores, Isabel Pires, Jorge da Conceição, Miguel Gomes and Ricardo Fonseca.