Septennial re-roofing ceremony of the Kamablon, sacred house of Kangaba

Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Country(ies): Mali



Septennial re-roofing ceremony of the Kamablon, sacred house of Kangaba

The Malinke and other peoples of the Manden region of south-west Mali gather every seven years to celebrate when a new thatch roof is installed atop the Kamablon (or House of Speech) in the village of Kangaba. Built in 1653, the distinctive circular Kamablon of Kangaba shelters objects and furniture of high symbolic value to the community and serves as a village senate. Members of the Keita clan – descendants of the Mali Empire’s founder, Sundiata Keita – and griots with the patronym Diabate are the keepers of the Kamablon’s history and organizers of the ceremony. The re-roofing is an occasion to evoke the history and culture of the Manden through oral traditions and an opportunity to strengthen social bonds, settle conflicts, and predict what will happen for the next seven years. During five days, young people of 20 or 21 years of age take down the old roof and put in place a new one under the supervision and guidance of community elders who transmit on that occasion their knowledge relating to the house, its construction, history and symbolic value. Griots from the nearby village of Kela carry out homage to Sundiata and recount the oral history of the Manden region.


Decision 4.COM 13.60

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:

  • R.1: The re-roofing ceremony is a ritual event in which oral traditions are recited and sung, transmitting the oral history of the Mali Empire to its modern-day descendants in the Manden region, and reuniting clan and family members around a powerful symbol of their cultural identity;
  • R.2: Inscription of the ceremony on the Representative List would contribute to social cohesion and mutual respect among the communities of the Manden, while ensuring visibility and awareness of their shared cultural heritage;
  • R.3: The community of Kangaba and national authorities have elaborated measures to safeguard this important element, through legislation and an awareness-raising programme to encourage the transmission of skills and knowledge to future generations;
  • R.4: The Kangaba community and custodians of the Kamablon welcomed the initiative of the National Directorate for Cultural Heritage to nominate the element, as demonstrated by their free, prior and informed consent;
  • R.5: The Kamablon sacred house was inscribed in 2005 on the inventory of national cultural heritage maintained by the National Directorate for Cultural Heritage.