Naples pizza twirling wins coveted Unesco 'intangible' status

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The art of Neapolitan pizza-making has won world heritage status, joining a horse-riding game from Iran and Dutch windmills on Unesco's culture list.
The art of the Neapolitan "pizzaiuolo" is a culinary practice consisting of four different phases relating to the preparation of the dough and its baking in a wood-fired oven. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - Naples' pizza twirling joined Unesco's list of "intangible heritage" Thursday (Dec 7), securing the coveted status alongside a host of cultural treasures including a Saudi artfrom traditionally practiced only by women.

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

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.

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.

"Victory!" Maurizio Martina, Italy's minister for agriculture, food and forestry, wrote on Twitter. "Another step towards the protection of Italy's food and wine heritage."

Pecoraro Scanio, a former agriculture minister who attended the proceedings in Jeju, wrote on Twitter: "Long live the art of Neapolitan pizzzaiuolo!"

Thirty-four candidates were seeking to join the list of intangible heritage, created in 2003 mainly to raise awareness, although Unesco also sometimes offers financial or technical support to countries struggling to protect their traditions.

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.

Saudi Arabia was among those celebrating on Jeju, claiming the tag for Al-Qatt Al-Asin - elaborate interior wall paintings traditionally done by women. The art, which promotes solidarity among women, is handed down through observation.

Bangladesh also claimed victory with its tradition of Shital Pati, an intricate weaving craft using strips of green cane to produce mats and bedspreads.

An array of traditions struggling to survive will also be given special support after being placed on an "urgent safeguarding list".

These include a whistled language that developed in Turkey as a way to communicate across steep mountains and rugged topography but is now being threatened by mobile phones.

Morocco will also get help 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 globalisation and young people's rejection of traditional heritage had driven the practice "closer to oblivion".

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