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Cultural Sustainability and Cultural Heritage

Updated: Apr 23

Big Idea:

At the heart of heritage creation and recreation is the concept of continuity. Cultural Sustainability is about continuity.

When we talk about Cultural Heritage, we mean that it encompasses traditions, beliefs, customs, artistic expressions that are passed down through generations. It is a reflection of a community's identity, values, and way of life, representing the tangible and intangible elements that shape its cultural landscape. Cultural heritage can be broadly categorized into two main types: tangible and intangible.


Tangible cultural heritage refers to physical objects, sites, and structures that have historical, artistic, scientific, or cultural significance. Tangible cultural heritage provides tangible evidence of a society's past achievements, technological advancements, and artistic expressions, serving as a link between the present and the past.


Intangible cultural heritage, on the other hand, comprises the living expressions and practices that are passed down orally, through rituals, performances, and social customs. Intangible cultural heritage embodies the beliefs, values, knowledge systems, skills, and ways of life of a community, fostering a sense of identity, continuity, and belonging among its members. (UNESCO, 2003) 

Understanding the importance of Heritage Custodians and TCEs with respect to cultural sustainability requires us to consider the ways in which these aspects contribute to the resilience, cohesion, and well-being of communities. Heritage Custodians are such integral figures that play a vital role in the creation and recreation of Intangible Cultural Heritage thus advancing and safeguarding continuity, creativity and legacy across generations. 

At the heart of heritage creation and recreation is the concept of continuity—a seamless link between the past, present, and future. Heritage Custodians serve as custodians of cultural memory, transmitting traditional knowledge and wisdom to subsequent generations. 


Creation and recreation of heritage is a process that acknowledges the living nature of Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs) and their continuous transformation over time. Rather than being static artifacts frozen in time, TCEs evolve and adapt in response to changing social, cultural, and environmental contexts. TCEs are not simply relics of the past; they are living embodiments of cultural identity and resilience, reflecting the ongoing experiences, values, and aspirations of communities. Cultural custodianship is a fundamental aspect of preserving Traditional Cultural Expressions. One such example is - for generations, the House of Mewar of Udaipur in India has served as custodians of their rich cultural legacy, preserving and promoting the traditional arts, crafts, and rituals of the Mewar region. For the last 1300 years, ‘the common thread of Custodianship’ of the Kingdom of Mewar runs through the Family. The Custodianship is a tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of the person who carries it. It is a responsibility, one carries for his Ruling deity, Parmeshwaraji Maharaj Shree Eklingnath ji, whom one represents in this world, and for the subjects of the ruler and the Kingdom of which he is the custodian. The concept of custodianship has to be built on a strong foundation, each brick attached firmly to the other. (Singh Auwa, 2020). 

Another great example is Berlin's techno culture, now added to the list of UNESCO-protected as Intangible Cultural Heritage, showcasing the evolving nature of traditional  cultural expressions. However, this recognition doesn't extend to Detroit's techno scene, given its distinct origins and intertwined history with Berlin. While both share a legacy, UNESCO's distinction highlights Berlin's unique cultural trajectory.  (Ahmed, 2024)

Craft custodians of Șezătoarea Ciocârlia from Costești, Republic of Moldova, identify as Heritage Creators (i.e. Creatoare de patrimoniu). Șezătoarea - in Romanian language - or Sitting - in English language - is a traditional form of gathering, an important socio-cultural institution in village life, a meeting of women and girls that implies cross-generational transmission of knowledge, social cohesion and joint decision-making. In Romania and the Republic of Moldova, Șezătorile (plural form) are the form in which many custodians of textile-related Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions socialize, weave networks, learn, take collective decisions and craft the future (Cultural IP Month, 2023). With the help of Monica Moisin, they participated in last year’s Cultural IP Month, identifying themselves as Heritage Creators, keeping the tradition alive. 

In the context of cultural heritage, the human tendency to categorize and compartmentalize only emphasizes the tangible and quantifiable metrics. This capitalistic approach ends up overlooking the intangible aspects such as social practices, traditions that are equally important. The intersectionality of tangible and intangible cultural heritage has value that emerges from the relationships between planet, people, places and practices. and so heritage creation and recreation that is facilitated by Heritage Custodians goes beyond preservation of culture. They embody a commitment of care and continuity of cultural heritage.


As enablers for change, Heritage Custodians inspire us to recognize the value of both tangible and intangible cultural heritage and take meaningful action not just to preserve but also to safeguard, interpret and transmit, ensuring its continuity for the benefit of the present and future generations. 

Call for Action:

We call our readers and network to identify Heritage Custodians around them and try to play their part in understanding their role in being active parts of their community without being disrespectful. Know ways in which you can do your bit. Some actionable steps that you can take are, educating and immersing yourself, be a part of Cultural Sustainability Academy - The Knowledge Hub for Cultural Sustainability®. The community at Cultural Intellectual Property Month 2024, Cultural Intellectual Property Rights Initiative® is here to support and guide. Reachout to us and become Weavers of Change for Cultural Sustainability.

Beyond Words:

Continuing the tradition of Canang Sari. Bali, 2023 ©Shravani Deshmukh

Written by Shravani Deshmukh for Cultural Intellectual Property Month 2024, Cultural Intellectual Property Rights Initiative®. Referencing: Deshmukh, S., 2024. Cultural Sustainability and Cultural Heritage, in Cultural Intellectual Property Month 2024, Cultural Intellectual Property Rights Initiative®

This is a conversation starter. Join us in weaving dialogues and crafting actions on the Cultural Sustainability and Fashion Thread!

Share your reflections in the comments below or send us your contribution for publication on the CIPRI Website  (written text, audio-video material or photographic work) by swisstransfer to - Weaving systemic-change thread by thread!


UNESCO (2003) Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible Cultural Heritage.

Singh Auwa, 2020, “The Custodians of House of Mewar”, Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, 27 November 2020

Aneesa Ahmed, 2024, “Germany adds Berlin’s Techno scene to UNESCO Cultural heritage list”, The Guardian, 15 March 2024

Șezătoarea Ciocârlia, 2023, “Cultural Intellectual Property Month”, Cultural Intellectual Property Rights Initiative®, 14 April, 2023

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