The Ministry of Education and Culture has nominated 52 elements for inclusion in the National Inventory of Living Heritage in Finland, amongst them also circus culture. The National Inventory belongs to the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which Finland signed in 2013. The National Inventory was created in November 2017.
Finnish circus organisations on a broad scale participated in presenting circus culture to the National Inventory based on the Wiki-inventory for Living Heritage. Altogether 20 circus organisations, amongst them contemporary circus companies, touring classical circuses, professional education institutions, youth circus schools as well as umbrella organisations, joined forces behind the proposal. Many more artists and circus enthusiasts also participated in a nationwide seminar which started the process in 2016. Finland is now the third country in Europe, where circus arts has been taken to the National Inventory of the UNESCO Convention, the other ones being The Netherlands (2013) and Hungary (2016).
The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted in 2003, and Finland signed the Convention in 2013. The National Board of Antiquities is responsible for the implementation of the Convention in Finland. The UNESCO convention includes creating an inventory of intangible cultural heritage at the national and international levels.
The National Inventory of Living Heritage is a tool which can be used to identify, describe and convey knowledge about and information on living traditions. It is possible for elements in the National Inventory to be later nominated for inclusion in UNESCO’s international lists of intangible cultural heritage. The Ministry of Education and Culture decides on Finland’s nominations.
The Finnish National Inventory will be updated regularly. The Inventory covers a wide selection of fields within intangible cultural heritage from nearly all parts of Finland. It includes several traditional festivities, a wide range of handicrafts, food traditions, games and oral traditions and several nature-related elements, such as snow games, mushroom picking, building and sailing on clinker boats. Performing arts also feature in the Inventory: besides circus culture also the funfairs tradition is included in the Finnish list.
The inventory includes both well-known living traditions practised by large groups of people, but also traditions from small communities. The meaning of intangible heritage to people and the living and changing nature of these traditions were important features while naming elements to the national inventory.
The selection of an element into the National Inventory of Living Heritage is a recognition to the communities that work with the traditions. The inclusion in the Inventory makes the traditions more visible than before. At the same time, it brings them one step closer to being recognised internationally.
The National Inventory is based on the Wiki-inventory for Living Heritage to which elements can be submitted at any time. The Wiki-inventory already includes 130 articles submitted by over 170 communities.
Information on the implementation of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Finland can be found on this site.
The international UNESCO lists on intangible cultural heritage (The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity; The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding)
(Source: CircusInfo Finland and a press release from Ministry of Education and Culture on 23.11.2017)