Katt Lissard


Laundry drying on the high plateau, Photograph by Eric Fenblatt

If we were more aware of what makes up our own intangible cultural heritage and the way in which we’ve culturally constructed our own notions of “place” – would we be more likely to respect and protect the “places” of others? Would we be better guardians of the planet and of each other – less likely to trample over, cover up, or rip apart what might be the crucial markers and essential vistas of someone’s else’s world?


Depending on where you live and the culture in which you move, work, think, create and dream, you may not consider yourself surrounded by your own intangible cultural heritage. If you live in the Global North or in a so-called “developed country,” you might think that intangible cultural heritage isn’t significant to you or your community, that it refers, instead, to the “developing world” where the clash between tradition and modernity is obvious, palpable and a part of everyday life.


But the concept of intangible culture is moving beyond the designated boundaries of denoting and protecting “traditional cultural activities.” At this point notions of intangible culture need to encompass more modern forms of cultural expression and social significance, including things like "rap music, Australian cricket, modern dance, post-modernist architectural knowledge, and karaoke bars" (1) – especially as the pace of globalization accelerates and the access between and across and within cultures is transformed by social media and the constant movement of people across, over and beyond borders.


MAP is working with Memory of a Drowning Landscape to gather an active, accessible archive of memories, images, descriptions and aural evocations of “place” gathered from across the globe – a collection of intangible cultural heritage thumbnails to which anyone can contribute. A template and shared platform is in development, but in the meantime you can send your images to info@makeartwithpurpose.net. You can send anything you feel expresses the elements of your own intangible cultural heritage, your sense of “place,” and that of any community to which you belong – a community that could exist in a physical way and in a physical place, like a neighborhood; or one that exists in a less physical sense, like a network of gamers who only know each other in cyberspace; or members of a social action collective that share an activist ideology but only come together in physical space for demonstrations or meetings. The possibilities are limitless and we are open to all of them.


In the case of the archeology and cultural heritage teams that worked along the Phuthiatšana river and at the Metolong dam sites in Lesotho, nine themes (2) were identified as focus points for gathering the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the community. It’s interesting to look at these and consider them in relation to your own sense of culture, place and community and what might constitute your own themes of cultural gathering:


· Settlement history and genealogies


· Kinship ties


· Individual memories


· Myths, stories song and dance associated with the river


· Ritual/spiritual places in the river gorge and plateau top, including those used for initiation, ancestor worship and Christian ceremonies


· Special places (non-ritual/spiritual, including rock shelters, paths, track-ways and meeting places)


· Indigenous knowledge associated with the resources of the river (including pastoral use, plants, herbs and crafts like thatching and basketry)


· Rock art


· Burials



1.) Kurin, Richard (1 May 2004). "Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in the 2003 UNESCO Convention: a critical appraisal." Museum International 56 (1-2): 66–77.


2.) Arthur, Charles and Peter Mitchell. “Metolong Cultural Resource Management Report, Phase 1, Volume 1.” Report for the Commissioner of Water of the Lesotho Government. April 2009. Sch