Tais from Timor-Leste is on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

Sixteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage approved the inscription of Tais on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

Marta da Costa, one of the expert Tais weavers from the Municipality of Oe-cusse feels confident now to continue transmitting her knowledge to her daughters and grand-daughters.

“It is a message from UNESCO to us, the weavers, that our hard work of maintaining the tradition was not vain,” said Joana Guterres, another expert weaver from Venilale, the Municipality of Baucau.

Tais is the traditional handwoven textile of Timor-Leste. Used for decoration and to create traditional clothing for ceremonies and festivals, it also expresses cultural identity and social class since the colours and motifs vary according to ethnic groups. Tais is made from cotton dyed with natural plants, and the complex process is traditionally reserved for women, who pass on the skills to the next generation in their communities.

The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding comprises intangible heritage elements that the concerned communities consider require urgent measures to keep them alive. Alongside the inscription, Timor-Leste also obtained financial support under the International Assistance to implement a safeguarding plan.

Teófilo Caldas, Secretary State of Timor-Leste Secretary State for Art and Culture, considers this recognition great encouragement for the government to put more political effort into supporting Tais weaving tradition.

To materialize this inscription, the government of Timor-Leste since 2019 has established the Tais National Committee with the participation of several Ministries, NGOs and UN agencies. The Committee consulted the weavers over one year to develop a holistic action plan for Tais safeguarding, including natural resource procurement, training in product development and public awareness-raising. A design competition for the school and government officials’ uniforms using Tais was also conducted recently to increase the demand for Tais.

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