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The Doudou , a masterpiece since 2005

The traditional Ducasse de Mons festival was recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005.

A just reward for everyone in Mons

At 11 am on 25 November 2005, when UNESCO officially recognised the traditional Ducasse de Mons festival as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, its purpose was specific: to protect a unique example of living, intangible heritage.

Three elements of the traditional Ducasse de Mons festival played an important role in its recognition by UNESCO: the public's enthusiasm and active involvement; the investment of time by hundreds of people who work all year long to enable this heritage to live on; and the continual transmission from generation to generation, a practical expression of which is the "Petit Lumeçon" for children.

This is obviously a huge reward for everyone who contributes, in one way or another, to the organisation of our traditional Ducasse festival. Above all though, it is a reward for everyone in Mons. The public's active involvement counts for a great deal in this international recognition. What would become of tradition without these vast crowds, without these thousands of people taking part in an expression of unity demonstrated through their heartfelt presence and their passion for their local tradition. We owe it to ourselves to keep passing on to younger generations the values of sharing and respect, which are conveyed throughout the week leading up to Trinity Sunday.

If there is one major stake that we should mention above all others, it's this one. It's a civic duty for the continuation of our traditions.

UNESCO has confirmed Doudou's exceptional value, listing it as Intangible Cultural Heritage, owing to its deep roots in local tradition, its cultural identity which is shared by everyone, and the demonstration of excellence in the way it is organised. The jury members were truly charmed by St Waudru, St George, the Dragon and all the other figures involved. Our application (which was a joint application together with ten other towns) was even deemed to be a real driving force, inspiring other events to follow the same path and announce their own applications. The other recognised Belgian events are: the Ducasse in Ath, the Meyboom in Brussels, the Ommegang in Dendermonde and the Ommegang in Mechelen.

We owe it to ourselves today to continue, all year long, the treasures of our tradition based around the legend of Saint George and the Dragon, and likewise for the story of our city's founder, Saint Waudru. A new interpretive centre about Saint George has a rightful place in Mons. The same can be said of a "Maison du Doudou", exhibiting objects relating to our tradition all year long. We'll make sure they succeed.

The UNESCO proclamation will not change our traditional Ducasse festival in any way. It will confirm the festival's reputation internationally as a high-quality event. And it will be a great pleasure to welcome the many visitors who will surely come to experience our tradition in the years to come.

Today, Doudou has been heralded for its many excellent qualities. We will do everything we can to maintain these.

A few words about intangible heritage and UNESCO

The concept of "intangible cultural heritage" was developed by UNESCO to replace the word "folklore" and the expression "popular arts and traditions". The word "folklore" (the study of the life of the people) spread throughout Europe in the 19th century by means of its German-language equivalent, Volkskunde. The word refers to any form of the life of the people, but has come to be slightly pejorative, at least in the French language and in the eyes of intellectuals, signifying the more caricatured aspects of life. It also indicates a conservative view of society – one that tends to look to the past.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was established just after the end of the Second World War, in 1946. It carries out important work in its areas of concern. As part of its culture programme, UNESCO has run projects at an international level to protect monuments considered to belong to our world heritage. One of its most famous campaigns was to protect the Egyptian temples of Abu Simbel in Nubia. In 1972, UNESCO adopted a Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. This convention, initially ratified by 172 states, establishes a list of monuments or sites considered significant at a global level. In Belgium, these include Tournai Cathedral, belfries (Tournai, Mons, Charleroi, Thuin, etc.), the boat lifts on the Canal du Centre and the Grand-Place in Brussels.

 

Interview of the UNESCO ambassador (in french):


The oral and intangible heritage has been defined by international experts convened by UNESCO as "peoples' learned processes along with the knowledge, skills and creativity that inform and are developed by them, the products they create, and the resources, spaces and other aspects of social and natural context necessary to their sustainability; these processes provide living communities with a sense of continuity with previous generations and are important to cultural identity, as well as to the safeguarding of cultural diversity and creativity of humanity". The expression "intangible cultural heritage" means traditions that consist of a heritage passed orally from generation to generation. Unlike a building or a place, traditional culture is not tangible. It is felt in people's minds, in their feelings, in their beliefs and customs. It is expressed, however, through objects, and this concrete expression takes place in specific places.

Oral and intangible heritage includes a vast and complex variety of forms of living heritage in constant evolution. The Director-General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, described it as a "melting pot for creative expression and a driving force for living cultures".The giants and dragons of Western Europe's parades

Our application to be recognised as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity was based on the selection of a number of towns where giants and dragons have been very much alive for centuries and have become emblems of the local community. They represent a number of regions where giants are relatively populous: over 1000 in Flanders, over 100 in Brussels, over 500 in Wallonia, about 50 in the Netherlands and 350 in northern France.For Belgium, the application included the following towns:

  • Ath (the Ducasse)   
  • Mons (the Doudou)   
  • Brussels (the Meyboom)   
  • Dendermonde (the Ommegang)   
  • Mechelen (the Ommegang)

 

Selection criteria

Applications are considered on the basis of their concordance with the six criteria that were established by the rules of the Proclamation and which were supported by the Jury at the meeting in Elche (Spain, September 2001), to the extent that they represent:

  • Either a strong concentration of intangible cultural heritage of outstanding value;
  • Or a popular and traditional cultural expression of outstanding value from a historical, artistic, ethnological, linguistic or literary point of view.

 

They must:

  • Demonstrate their outstanding value as masterpieces of human creative genius;
  • Give wide evidence of their roots in a cultural tradition or history.

 

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