Malaysia joins three other nations in nomination for UNESCO intangible cultural heritage 

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Malaysia (Commonwealth Union)_ Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Thailand have collaboratively decided to nominate the Kebaya to UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity for 2023.   

According to the latest statement from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture (MOTAC) of Malaysia, all Southeast Asian countries had discussed and decided to cooperate in preserving the kebaya tradition since it is a shared legacy that is practiced in all of the countries in the region. “Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Thailand have agreed to jointly nominate the Kebaya because it represents and celebrates the richness of the common heritage, promoting cross-cultural understanding so that it continues to be practiced by various communities throughout Southeast Asia,” the statement read. “This is a great opportunity to promote and celebrate the shared heritage that exists in the region”.  

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According to the MOTAC, after the agreement, a workshop to prepare the Kebaya nomination form for UNESCO was conducted from November 1 to 3 in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan. This workshop brought together representatives from all four nations in order to create a nomination dossier. According to the Ministry, if the nomination is accepted, all nations are required to submit their nomination paperwork by the end of March 2023 for the inscription procedure the following year (2024). According to the statement, the nations that are engaged in the nomination process also encourage the participation of additional regional countries in the joint nomination.

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Kebaya is an upper garment that represents the cultural traditions and identity of Malaysian, Peranakan Chinese, Chitty, and other Southeast Asian cultures. Kebaya also satisfies the criteria for an intangible cultural heritage element since it requires traditional weaving methods, such as embroidery (of motifs) and stitching, to create the traditional women’s clothing. 

Additionally, Kebaya is strongly associated with various types of cultural heritage, like weddings and festivals. In accordance with the 2003 Convention for the Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, UNESCO places a strong focus on joint or multi-national nominations in order to make culture a platform for mutual understanding and dialogue, thereby making the listing process an opportunity for global strategic cooperation.

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