Azerbaijani polo may be included in UNESCO list
By Nigar Orujova
Inclusion of "chovgan", a traditional Karabakh horse riding game, into the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage will be discussed at the eighth session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, in Azerbaijan's capital Baku on December 2-7.
There are 12 nominations to be reviewed by the Committee for possible inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
The bidders list includes Botswana folk dance and folk music, Ivorian music of the transverse trumps, Guatemalan Paach ceremony, Indonesian weaving, Kenyan three male rites of passage of the Maasai community, Mexican pilgrimage to Wirikuta, Mongolian calligraphy, Nicaraguan traditions and oral expressions of the Rama people, Macedonian male two-part singing in Dolni Polog, and the Ugandan Empaako tradition.
The eighth session, chaired by Azerbaijani Minister of Culture and Tourism Abulfaz Garayev, will hear the member states' reports on the implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Moreover, the 31 nominations to the UNESCO Representative List will be considered.
The events are timed to mark the 10th anniversary of the Convention planned to be held as part of the session.
Azerbaijan, with favorable geographical and climatic conditions for animal breeding and equestrian development, is a homeland for chovgan, the original form of the polo sporting game that dates back thousands of years.
Chovgan has been very popular for centuries both in Azerbaijan and Central Asia. Fragments of the game were portrayed in ancient miniatures, and detailed descriptions and rules of the game were reflected in ancient manuscripts.
The game includes two teams, consisting of five to six players each plus one odd player. Regardless of the composition of the team there is no goalkeeper. The ball can be stopped while in movement by any part of the player's body, but strikes must be done only with a special club.
Chovgan has been known to the Western world only since 1860 through the British occupation of India. The game, which was called polo, passed on to other European countries and also to America. Following a British initiative, polo was included in the program of the second Olympic Games held in Paris in 1900.
Horse racing in Azerbaijan was rare during the Soviet period. After Azerbaĳan gained independence, chovgan tournaments became more frequent.
Chovgan tournaments in independent Azerbaijan started from the games held in Shaki in December 2006. Since then the Chovgan Presidential Cup has been held every December.
In September, the Arena Polo World Cup was held in Azerbaijan with the slogan "Bringing Polo Home", with the participation of four teams -- from Britain, USA, Argentina and Germany.