Cultural space of the Yaaral and Degal

Inscribed in 2008 (3.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2005)

Country(ies): Mali



Cultural space of the Yaaral and Degal

The cultural space of the Yaaral and the Degal encompasses the vast pastoral lands of the Peul of the inner Niger Delta. The Yaaral and the Degal festivities mark the crossing of the river at the time of the transhumance. Twice a year, herds of cattle cross the arid land of the Sahel and the flood plains of the inner Niger River. The festivities always take place on a Saturday, an auspicious day in popular Peul belief, and their exact date is determined according to the state of the pasture and the river level.

These festivities give rise to varied cultural expressions. Competitions for the most beautifully decorated herd are organized. Herdsmen recite pastoral poems relating their adventures during the long months of trekking. Young women put on their finest clothes and jewellery to acclaim the herdsmen in song.

These two events, dating back to the settlement of Peuls in the region around the fourteenth century, are the linchpins of the way of life of these people. The management of the pasturelands, the marking out of transhumance routes and the gathering of herds at specific points have improved the organization of the event and have resulted in larger crowds, turning these pastoral festivals into major events. Because they bring together representatives of all the ethnic and occupational groups in the Delta – Peul cattle-breeders, Marka or Nono rice-growers, Bambara millet-growers and Bozo fishermen – the Yaaral and the Degal continue to renew inter-community pacts and reinforce social cohesion. The strong attachment of the communities in the region to these festivities ensures their continuity, although they may be weakened by the rural exodus of the young and recurring droughts affecting the pastureland and the herds.



These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website

Safeguarding project (11-2006/04-2009)

Organized by the Peul community, the Yaaral and Degal festivals mark the twice-yearly crossing of the Niger river by herds of cattle. This seasonal migration gives rise to widely appreciated and varied celebrations and expressions, such as competitions for the most beautifully decorated herd, recitations of pastoral poems and songs.

This safeguarding project aims at enhancing knowledge and understanding concerning elements of the intangible cultural heritage at the local and national level and raising awareness of the local population and authorities to the importance of this cultural space.It will produce pedagogical materials for schools of the first cycle, reinforce capacities of the teachers, as well as produce and disseminate promotional materials and a code of ethical behaviour. The project will include documentation, research and fieldwork collection, along with awareness-raising encounters and exhibits as well as radio programmes.