PARIS, France – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has added Haiti’s Joumou soup among 43 elements inscribed on the agency’s intangible cultural heritage lists.
UNESCO said that, during its annual meeting, held online, the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage inscribed four elements on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and 39 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
UNESCO said the Intergovernmental Committee also added four projects to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices and allotted US$172,000 from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund to a safeguarding project presented by Mongolia, US$116,400 to a project in Djibouti and a further US$266,000 to a project in Timor-Leste.
For the first time this year, UNESCO said the Intergovernmental Committee decided to inscribe elements from Haiti, Congo, Denmark, Iceland, Federated Republic of Micronesia, Montenegro, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Seychelles and Timor-Leste to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage lists, which now feature 630 elements from 140 countries.
UNESCO said its Intergovernmental Committee decided to added Haiti’s Joumou soup to its inscription “based on the advice of the Evaluation body and following a fast-track procedure, given the specific circumstances due to the hardships recently endured by the country.
UNESCO noted that Joumou, or giraumon soup, is a traditional Haitian pumpkin soup made with vegetables, plantains, meat, pasta and spices.
“It is a celebratory dish, deeply rooted in Haitian identity, and its preparation promotes social cohesion and belonging among communities,” said UNESCO in a statement, adding that originally reserved for slave owners, Haitians took ownership of the soup when they gained independence from France, turning it into a symbol of their newly-acquired freedom and an expression of their dignity and resilience.
“It is made from giraumon, a variety of pumpkin once cultivated by the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, and is prepared and consumed specifically on the first of January – Haiti’s Independence Day – when it constitutes the first meal of the year. It also serves as traditional Sunday breakfast.”
UNESCO said the preparation of Joumou soup is a “family and community affair: women manage the overall activities, children help to prepare the ingredients, artisans make the aluminum pots and other utensils used to prepare the soup, and farmers work the land to harvest the vegetables.
“Today, several variations of the soup can be found in Caribbean and Latin American cuisines,” UNESCO said.
“It is a great joy and a point of pride to see this project come to fruition today, just two weeks before the Haitian Independence Day,” said UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay.
Haiti, the world’s first Black republic, gained its independence from France on January 1, 1804.
“It is an important gesture of recognition for the entire Haitian culture and identity, which will further strengthen its influence throughout the world,” Azoulay added.
The Haitian delegation to UNESCO said the inscription was “not only a fabulous sign of hope and encouragement but also a unifying call for a Haitian people currently facing an exceptionally difficult moment in their rich history.
“A symbol of the rejection of a system of oppression and discrimination, of the struggle against colonization and all forms of racism, the soup also strengthens cultural identity, encourages coexistence and social cohesion and plays a key unifying role,” said the delegation in a statement.
“This heritage generates a strong sense of belonging to the Haitian nation, connects new generations with their roots and has become an expression of their dignity as a people,” it added.