The United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) honoured Flamenco this week.

On Tuesday 16 November, the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) honoured Spanish flamenco dance as a part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity”.

Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, members of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity recognised 46 cultural practices, nominated by the governments of 28 countries. Flamenco’s nomination was supported by the Spanish government and regional administrations in Andalusia and Extremadura.

The recognition given to flamenco by UNESCO has brought joy to flamenco performers not only in Spain but around the globe. South Africa’s La Rosa Spanish Dance Theatre Artistic Director Carolyn Holden is overjoyed with UNESCO’s announcement. “To us flamenco is sacred ground. It’s an art form to be respected and celebrated and we are ever grateful to the flamencos who have welcomed us into their classrooms in Spain, and, when visiting South Africa, have generously shared their heritage, knowledge and culture with us.”

Although the dance form arose in Spain, the result of a melting pot of cultures resident in Andalusia from the end of the 15th century to the middle of the 19th century, flamenco is enjoyed and performed throughout the world, with one of the largest centres of flamenco activity being Japan.

Flamenco expert Jose Manuel Gamboa was quoted as saying that flamenco draws its flavour from all of Spain. “The grandeur of flamenco is that it is an art that has managed to bring in influence from every corner of our culture and recreate it with a language that is more powerful and newer.”

In South Africa, flamenco has been taught and performed since the 1940s. Names such as Mavis Becker (Marina Lorca), Mercedes Molina, Hazel Acosta and Geoffrey Neiman (Enrique Segovia) are synonymous with productions presented from the 1960s to the early 1990s.


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