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Pizza joins UNESCO 'intangible heritage' list

December 7, 2017

Naples' pizza twirling joined UNESCO's growing list of "intangible heritage" Thursday, securing the coveted status alongside a host of cultural treasures including a Saudi art form traditionally practiced only by women.

Man holding several pizzas
Image: Reuters/C. de luca

Naples' pizza twirling joined UNESCO's list of "intangible heritage" Thursday, securing the coveted status alongside a host of cultural treasures including a Saudi art form traditionally practiced only by women.

The art of 'pizzaiuolo' — which has been handed down for generations in the southern Italian city of Naples — was given the nod by the UN cultural body's World Heritage Committee, who met on the South Korean island of Jeju.

Naples pizza takes the prize

It comes after some two million people joined a petition to support Naples' application, according to Sergio Miccu, head of the Association of Neapolitan Pizzaiuoli — no doubt buoyed by his offer of complimentary pizza if the age-old culinary tradition joined the prestigious list.

"We'll be giving out free pizza in the streets," Miccu earlier told AFP.

Read morePizza and organ music up for UNESCO Intangible Heritage recognition

The custom goes far beyond the pizzaiuolo's spectacular handling of the dough — hurling it into the air in order to "oxygenate" it — to include songs and stories that have turned pizza-making into a time-honoured social ritual.

It is said that the Margherita pizza was created in 1889 by a local Neapolitan chef in honor of Queen Margherita, who was visiting the city — it has the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag.

Margherita pizza
Pizza Margherita was created in the colors of the Italian flag Image: Picture-alliance/Pacific Press/M. Consiglia Izzo

Also on the UNESCO list is the Saudi Arabian art of  Al-Qatt Al-Asin — elaborate interior wall paintings traditionally done by women and which promotes solidarity among females.

Other intangible heritage announced in Jeju includes Chogan, an Iranian horse-riding game accompanied by music and storytelling; the craft of millers operating windmills and watermills in the Netherlands; traditional boat making on the Indonesian island of South Sulawesi; and Nsima, a maize-based culinary tradition from the African country of Malawi.

Thirty-four candidates were seeking to join the intangible heritage list, which was created in 2003 to mainly raise awareness.

Dutch windmill
Traditional windmill operators in the Netherlands were also honored by UNESCOImage: picture alliance/Bildagentur-online

UNESCO also sometimes offers financial or technical support to countries struggling to protect their traditions. Morocco will get help, therefore, to protect Taskiwin, a martial dance that developed in the western High Atlas mountain range and involves shaking one's shoulders to the rhythm of tambourines and flutes. UNESCO said globalization and young people's rejection of traditional heritage had driven the practice "closer to oblivion."

The list already included more than 350 traditions, art forms and practices from Spain's flamenco dancing to Indonesian batik fabrics, to more obscure entries such as a Turkish oil wrestling festival and the Mongolian coaxing ritual for camels.

sb/ng (AFP, Reuters, dpa)