Racism: UNESCO removes Belgian d’Ath Festival from heritage list


The Intergovernmental Committee for the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity decided to remove Belgium’s Ducasse d’Ath Festival from UNESCO’s representative list for these elements due to the racist behavior of one of its characters.

Following protests and complaints from third parties, in particular non-governmental organizations, the 24-Member-State body addressed the issue in the continuation of the debates at its 7th session, hosted by Morocco, where the character ‘Sauvage’ (Wild) was strongly condemned for its discriminatory projection towards Afro-descendants.

The Ducasse d’Ath is part of the popular tradition of processions of giants and dragons in nine cities in Belgium and France, inscribed in the intangible cultural heritage of humanity since 2008.

According to the Committee, the element as such is still registered with UNESCO, but without the aforementioned festival, which kept the ‘Sauvage’ this year in the parades, although with changes in its attributes, due to the controversy it generated.

The tradition that has been enriched since the Middle Ages is now a popular festival lasting several days in the two countries, marked by the gigantic characters, dolls that can measure up to nine meters in height and exceed 300 kilograms in weight.

After interventions that were strongly repudiated due to expressions of racism and discrimination, the Belgian delegation supported the rejection of such manifestations and formally requested the removal of the celebration from UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage.


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