Iconic Czech folk pattern makes UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List

The traditional pattern made by indigo dyeing with block printing has been recognized by UNESCO

Katrina Modrá

Written by Katrina Modrá Published on 04.12.2018 08:00:19 (updated on 04.12.2018) Reading time: 1 minute

The Czech craft of indigo dyeing with block printing (modrotisk) has been added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list, following a Wednesday meeting of the UN educational, scientific, and cultural body’s committee in Port Louis, Mauritius.

The technique, which has been used to give decorative fabrics their characteristic intricate beauty since the 18th century, was nominated jointly by Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

The traditional skilled trade is still practiced by a small number of family workshops many of them with a history of up to 300 years, using seventh-generation tools. Typically, wooden forms are used to print the desired patterns which remain white during the dying process.

In the Czech Republic, the popularity of modrotisk blossomed in the 19th century.  In regions such as Horácko and Wallachia, it became a signature folk pattern. In the 19th century, blueprint workshops existed in most small towns; by the 20th century, their numbers began to dwindle.

Today such family-run workshops are still operating in Olešnice and Strážnice, both of which have e-shops selling a variety of items in the traditional pattern and offering demonstrations.

A number of contemporary designers have paid tribute to this deep blue decorative motif including Prague-based label Made by Ordinary and Czech designer Monika Drápalová.

The Intangible Cultural Heritage list includes more than four hundred different customs, traditions, and cultural events. It complements the more famous listing of the world’s cultural and natural heritage with more than 1,000 items, including mountains, lakes, national parks, buildings, and entire cities.

For the Czech Republic, this is the sixth item on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Most recently, a joint nomination with Slovakia for puppetry was adopted in 2016. Falconry, the verbuňk dance, Shrovetide processionals and the Moravian rides of kings round out the list.

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