Traditional skills of sailing Lenj boats come one step closer to elimination

April 30, 2021 - 17:46

TEHRAN - Iranian cabinet has approved a bill that may, according to cultural heritage experts, lead to the elimination of the UNESCO-listed traditional skills of building and sailing Iranian Lenj boats in the Persian Gulf.

"Despite the opposition of cultural heritage enthusiasts to a possible decision of elimination the traditional wooden lenjs, the cabinet agreed to allocate a budget for the destruction of these vessels," Mehr reported on Friday.

Members of government on Wednesday rectified a bill for the replacement of traditional commercial vessels with a capacity of less than 500 tons, the report said.

The Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts had previously notified the cabinet that the traditional knowledge of shipbuilding and navigation in the Persian Gulf was on the UNESCO list of intangible heritage.

Various activists, including the World Maritime Forum, Kang Municipality, ICOM officials, cultural heritage lovers, and the media, have repeatedly stated their opposition to the resolution.

Iranian Lenj vessels are traditionally hand-built and are used by inhabitants of the northern coast of the Persian Gulf for sea journeys, trading, fishing, and pearl diving. The traditional knowledge surrounding Lenjs includes oral literature, performing arts and festivals, in addition to the sailing and navigation techniques and terminology, and weather forecasting that is closely associated with sailing, and the skills of wooden boat-building itself. The navigational knowledge used to sail Lenjes was traditionally passed on from father to son.

Experts believe that specific music and rhythms also constituted inseparable parts of sailing in the Persian Gulf, with sailors singing particular songs while working. Nowadays, the community of practitioners is small and mainly comprises older people. Wooden Lenjes are being replaced by cheaper fiberglass substitutes, and wooden Lenj construction workshops are being transformed into repair shops for older Lenjes. The philosophy, ritualistic background, culture, and traditional knowledge of sailing in the Persian Gulf are gradually fading, although some of the associated ceremonies continue to be practiced in a few places.

The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is composed of the intangible heritage elements that concerned world cultural communities and the states’ parties should consider urgent measures to keep them alive. Inscription on this list helps to mobilize international cooperation and assistance for stakeholders to undertake appropriate safeguarding measures, according to the UN cultural body.

AFM/

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