|On November 25, 2005, the Guatemalan dance-drama Rab'inal Achí was pronounced a masterpiece of the world's patrimony by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The "Man of Achí" is also known as the Xajoj Tun or "Dance of the Drum."
During the so-called Third Proclamation ceremony, held on November 25 in Paris, the Director-General of UNESCO introduced forty-three new "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity." These master works stem from all regions of the world (nine originate in Africa, twelve in Asia, eleven in Europe, four in Arab states, seven in Latin America and the Caribbean, while the four remaining masterpieces have a multinational origin). Among the seven masterpieces in Latin America and the Caribbean is the Rab'inal Achí.
The Rab'inal Achí is a dance-drama performed yearly in the community of Rab'inal in the Baja Verapaz in Guatemala. It was recorded first in 1855 by the French abbé Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, who also provided the first translation of the Achí text (in French).
The dance-drama is divided into four acts or parts. In the first act, the Warrior of K'iche' (of Kawek' origin) challenges lord Ojob' Toj of Rab'inal to come out of his fortress. It is here that the Warrior of Rab'inal intervenes and the two warriors engage in a fight. It is eventually the Warrior of K'iche' who is captured. In the second act, the Warrior of Rab'inal enters the palace inside the fortress of lord Ojob' Toj to announce the capture of the Warrior of K'iche'. In the third act, the Warrior of Rab'inal returns to the captured and bound Warrior of K'iche' to tell him about the response of lord Ojob' Toj.
In the fourth and final act, the Warrior of K'iche' is brought into the palace of Ojob' Toj, where after interrogation he obtains certain lordly and warrior-related privileges. Having eaten well and being intoxicated from the beverages he took he dances three dances, the last one of which is a dance in which he tests the agility of the Eagle and Jaguar factions of the Rab'inal warriors. The final act terminates with the Warrior of K'iche' being tied to a tree and being executed by way of arrows, shot at him by the Eagle and Jaguar warriors of the kingdom of Rab'inal. (Summarized after Van Akkeren 2000:380-382.)
The world heritage designation was first reported to me by Alain Breton.
An online news report on the Third Proclamation by UNESCO can be found on the UNESCO news page.
To learn about the Rab'inal Achí online, visit the website maintained by the Université du Québec a Montréal.
To learn about Rab'inal, the community central to the dance-drama, log on to the website of the Museo Comunitario "Rabinal Achi."
And an impressive photographic story of Rab'inal by Shane Solow can be found at Losttrails.com.