UNESCO’s decision to include the traditional maritime organisation and folklore group Boka Navy to its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list has delighted Montenegro.

Montenegro Hails Boka Navy’s Addition to UNESCO Heritage List

Members of the Boka Navy during the celebration of St Tryphon’s Day in Kotor. Photo: Government of Montenegro

Montenegro has welcomed the decision to add the traditional maritime heritage organisation Boka Navy on Thursday to UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Boka Navy is a folklore dance troupe from the coastal town of Kotor whose roots go back to the town’s medieval seafaring traditions.

Montenegro’s ambassador to France, Ivan Ivanisevic, hailed a historic decision for Montenegro, as this marked the first time an asset from Montenegro was included on the Representative List of Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

“For centuries, members of the Boka Navy kept this tradition. This is a matter of pride for all those who passed on their tradition to new generations,” Ivanisevic said.

According to UNESCO data, Boka Navy is a traditional maritime organisation that encompasses a series of activities associated with bringing the remains of St Tryphon to Kotor, back in 809.

The maritime organisation is the backbone of the annual festivities of St Tryphon’s day, celebrated on February 3, and it participates in the celebrations in the coastal towns of Kotor, Tivat and Herceg Novi.

On this day, the medieval circle “Kolo” dance is performed as a central event during the festivities, accompanied by musical orchestras.

Membership of Boka Navy is voluntary and every year, at the celebratory session of the Admiralty, Boka Navy selects a boy aged seven to 12 to act as its Young Admiral, the youngest member of the detachment: this represents a symbol of renewal and durability. The traditional uniform with trophy weapons is also an integral aspect of the whole element.

“This [UNESCO] decision will certainly significantly contribute to the further development and valorization of the Navy and its promotion in the world, as well as to the promotion of the city of Kotor and Montenegro,” the Navy’s admiral, Antun Sbutega, told the media.

Boka Navy was included in the Register of Cultural Properties of Montenegro in 2013. while the former Montenegrin government nominated the organisation for UNESCO’s list in 2017.

Meanwhile, Croatia nominated the Feast of St Tryphon and the traditional dance of Croats from the Bay of Kotor for inclusion on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Last December, however, UNESCO concluded that Croatia had not provided an explanation of the current cultural and social functions of the Boka Navy tradition in Croatia.

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