Living treasures of the culture of Ceará

1. Context

The State of Ceará has around 9,1 million inhabitants. Its economy ranks 11th among the other states of Brazil, and its capital, Fortaleza, is located in a strategic region, for its facilitated access to big economies of the world. The main economic activities of the State are commerce and services, industries, agribusiness, tourism, mining, and others.

Currently, according to the Ministry of Education, Ceará has the best public education in Brazil.

2. Ceará and culture

In 2003, the State government, through the State Secretary of the Culture (SECULT), assured the registration of masters of the traditional popular culture, supporting, preserving and transferring to future generations the cultural memory of our people, and their knowledge and art. In 2006, this law was reviewed and expanded, also maintaining groups and collectivities, called Living Treasures of Culture. In its 53 years of history, Secult has assumed the effective commitment to contribute to the protection and sustainability of the cultural heritage.

Under this environment, the cultural policy of the State of Ceara established strategic goals to improve the access to cultural assets and services; preserve and disseminate the rich and diverse tangible and intangible cultural heritage; foster the arts and manifestations of Ceara; amplify, modernize, and internalize the cultural network; extend the cultural citizenship and performed arts’ actions by institutions of the civil society; develop formative actions on art and culture; modernize the cultural legislation; invigorate popular participation; strengthen the State System of Culture in federative cooperation with the municipalities; and include the cultural economy in the center of the State’s development.

The project aims to recognize, protect and value the diversity of knowledge, the making and the popular traditional cultural expressions of Ceará.

The Cultural Policy of the State of Ceará is aligned to the SDGs of the UN and the Agenda 21 for Culture, provided in the management plan 2019-2020, named “Ceará, State of Culture”, a “navigational map” presented as a programmatic agenda suggesting to guarantee the access to culture and arts as the main direction on the qualification of other policies, acting in an integrated manner with programs of different departments promoting environments of innovation, creation, production, diffusion and creative economy for the development of a society of the knowledge through culture.

The cultural policy of the State of Ceará is based on:

  • Cultural Diversity.
  • Respect for human rights.
  • Social Participation and Transparency.
  • Accessibility.

3. Project goals and implementation

3.1. Main and specific objectives

The project aims to recognize, protect and value the diversity of knowledge, the making and the popular traditional cultural expressions of Ceará, preserving the cultural memory and the transmission of its artistic and cultural savoir-faires.

Specific goals

  • Recognize, value and promote the traditional knowledge and cultural practices.
  • Disseminate and generate knowledge from the Masters of Culture and Popular Culture Groups, holders of the knowledge of tradition.
  • Strengthen the intangible heritage through the exchange and exchange of experiences.
  • Promote professional qualification in the heritage area of public, private and civil society agents through training and artistic activities.
  • Stimulate the creative economy in an articulated manner with products and services by the Masters of Culture and Traditional Popular Culture Groups.
  • Contribute to the expansion and strengthening of intangible heritage policies concerning the protection of the Masters of Culture.

3.2. Project development

Beneficiary population

Since 2004, 106 masters (71 of them are alive), 13 groups and 3 collectives have been awarded. Currently, the Living Treasures of Culture are present in 42 municipalities and 12 macro-regions of Ceará. Also, all 78 Masters of Culture were recognized by the State University of Ceará with the title of Notorious Knowledge in Popular Culture, which ensures that they can teach at educational institutions and cultural centers.

Main actions developed

  • 11 Public Notices of the Living Treasures of Culture, where Masters, Groups, and Collectives from different municipalities in the State of Ceará were chosen.
  • Lifelong financial aid destined to Masters, maintaining value above minimum wage.
  • Continued financial support to Groups and Collectives.
  • 13 Meetings “Masters of the World” that gathered Masters of Culture, Groups, and Collectivities from Ceará, and other states and countries.
  • Conversations with the Masters of Culture at the International Biennial of the Book of Ceara, with more than 450 thousand visitors in 2019, including 809 schools and 45 thousand students, in addition to thousands of meetings, establishing a network and the exchange of ideas.
  • Workshops with the Masters of Culture conducting dance and singing at the Ibiapaba Music Festival.
  • Participation of the Living Treasures on the program of the cultural facilities of the Government of the State of Ceará.

Partner entities

  • National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN)
  • Ceará Folklore Commission
  • Cearense Forum of Traditional Popular Culture
  • Public and Private Universities
  • Popular participation management councils and committees
  • Civil Society Organizations
  • Cultural Equipment


The main obstacle has been the lack of monitoring, and systematic diagnosis of traditional groups, collectivities, and the Masters who live in several municipalities of the State. However, we seek to build effective public policies to overcome this through dialogues with municipal governments and the participation of civil society.


The State of Ceará became a pioneer in Law of Masters of Culture, which deals with the recognition of masters’ knowledge and skills. The law was revised in 2006, expanding from 60 to 80 masters, these being part of the Register of “Living Treasures of Culture” in Ceará. Moreover, Ceará has 94 Living Treasures and has given a lifelong and non-transferable aid to 78 Masters of Traditional Popular Culture.

Masters are recognized as diffusers of traditions, history and identity, passing on their knowledge and experiences to new generations.

4. Impact

4.1. Direct impact

The implementation of the policy of the Living Treasures of Culture represented a significant change in the institutional organization of the Cultural Policy of the State. With this strategic action, the governance expanded as shared management of actions aimed at protecting, safeguarding, valuing and enjoying the cultural heritage.

With the larger participation of sectors of the government and civil society, in a democratic way that envisages guaranteeing human rights and human dignity, the contribution is made in a transformative way in the social, environmental and economic dimension in the lives of communities and the directly contemplated citizens.

Ceará has 94% living treasures and has given a lifeling and non-transferable aid to 78 masters of traditional popular culture.

4.2. Evaluation

We act and persist on the social transformation through culture, so we believe in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating a cultural policy in a democratic way, considering the premises of participation, transparency, transversality, intersectionality, diversity, inclusion, and cultural democracy. The indicators are predicted according to the data collection and the monitoring of indicators established by Secult’s cultural heritage and memory policy.

4.3. Key factors

  • The longevity of the cultural heritage policy, there are more than 17 years of government actions, strengthening the recognition of the traditions of the State.
  • The continuity of the selection process.
  • The large participation of civil society from different State territories in the selection processes of the last two years with a significant increase of enrollments.
  • The recognition by the State University - UECE, which granted the title of Notorious Knowledge in Popular Culture to Masters.
  • The production of academic works, documentaries, interviews on newspapers, publications of the works, and conversations to share knowledge.
  • The participation of the Living Treasures in events and policies of the State Government, non-governmental institutions and bodies.
  • The Meeting of World Masters was awarded the Rodrigo Melo Franco de Andrade Prize, in 2017, from the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN), the largest Brazilian cultural heritage award.

4.4. Continuity

In 2017, the amount of Masters of Culture officially recognized by the Government of Ceará, through the Secretary of Culture, increased from 60 to 80. The expansion, which represented an important achievement of cultural policy and the support of traditional popular culture, was assured through the approval, by the Legislative Assembly, of a message sent by Governor Camilo Santana. Considering the expansion to 80 officially recognized masters of culture, the Government accomplished one of the goals of the Cultural State Plan, approved in 2016, including guidelines for the promotion of the traditional popular culture. Masters are recognized as diffusers of traditions, history, and identity, passing on their knowledge and experiences to new generations.

5. Further information

Ceara was a candidate for the fourth “UCLG Mexico City – Culture 21 International Award” (November 2019 – May 2020). The jury for the award drew up its final report in June of 2020, and requested that the Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices to be implemented through Agenda 21 for culture.

This article was written by Fabiano dos Santos Piuba, State Secretary of Culture, Fortaleza, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Ceara.


Download6.91 MB