Portal de la Cultura de América Latina y el Caribe
Wititi dance declared Intangible Cultural Heritage
Ministry of Culture appreciates the important international recognition of the traditional festivity of Arequipa

2 December 2015/ Ministry of Culture of Per

After nearly two years of evaluation by specialists of the Organisation of the United Nations for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, inscribed the Wititi Dance of the Colca Valley on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on 2 December 2015.

The traditional Wititi dance is one of the most complex and widespread cultural expressions of the Colca Valley, in Caylloma, Arequipa. It is performed by groups of couples during the religious festivities of the rainy season, and therefore its social meanings and rituals are linked to the agricultural cycle and to young peoples courtship.

The main figure in the dance, the person it was named after, is Wititi, a man whose costume consists of two overlapping womens skirts, a shirt, slings and strong hats. It is said that he uses womens clothes as a strategy that enables a man to approach young girls without being recognized. According to another version, the use of the skirt was a defence tactic in case of being attacked by enemy forces, which is why the Wititi dance also represents the strength and fighting spirit of the local population.

The Wititi dance is practiced and transmitted as an essential part of Colca Valley culture. Two native ethnic groups, the Cabanas and the Collaguas, live in the valley. The cultural expression constitutes a space for exchange and dialogue between these two peoples. The dance is also important for the continuity of other cultural expressions of the region, such as the colourful embroidered costumes and the hats used by the dancers.

The Wititi dance shows the happiness, the pride and the memory of the Colca Valley communities, consolidating their social ties and expressing their cultural identity.

This declaration was made possible thanks to the initiative of the organisations representing the Colca Valley, the Arequipa Regional Government and the Ministry of Culture, which were present during the long process of inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

It is a significant achievement for the Colca Valley, for Arequipa and for Peru, which already counts with eight cultural expressions inscribed on the List: Taquile and its textile art, the cultural manifestations of the Zpara people, the Scissors Dance, the Huaconada of Mito, Pilgrimage of the Sanctuary of Qoyllurit'I, the knowledge, skills and rituals related to the annual renewal of the Q'eswachaka bridge and the Festivity of Virgen de la Candelaria of Puno.

It is worth noting that during the meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, held in Namibia, four other cultural expressions of the American continent were recognised: the filete Porteo, a traditional painting technique of Argentina, marimba music, traditional songs and dances from southern Colombia and the Ecuadoran province of Esmeraldas, and the traditional knowledge and technologies related to the growing and processing of curagua, Venezuela.

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