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Cultural practices and expressions linked to the balafon of the Senufo communities of Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire

Inscribed in 2012 (7.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Country(ies): Mali, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire

Identification

Description

Cultural practices and expressions linked to the balafon of the Senufo communities of Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire

The balafon of the Senufo communities of Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire is a pentatonic xylophone, known locally as the ncegele. The ncegele is composed of eleven to twenty-one keys of varying lengths, made of wood, and arranged on a trapezoidal frame, also made of wood or bamboo. The instrument has calabash gourd resonators of varying sizes, arranged beneath the frame proportionally to the keys. The gourds are perforated and the holes are covered with spider’s egg-sac filaments to enhance the sound. The tuning of the ncegele is based on a division of the octave into five equal intervals, and the sounds are produced by striking the keys with wooden sticks with a rubber beater fitted to the end. Played solo or as part of an ensemble, the musical discourse of the balafon is based on a range of multiple rhythmic melodies. The ncegele provides entertainment during festivities, accompanies prayers in the parishes and in sacred woods, stimulates enthusiasm for work, punctuates funerary music and supports the teaching of value systems, traditions, beliefs, customary law, and rules of ethics governing society and the individual in day-to-day activities. The player first learns to play a children’s balafon, later moving on to full-size balafons, under the instruction of a teacher.

Documents

  • Nomination form: English|French
  • Consent of communities - Côte d’Ivoire: French
  • Consent of communities - Burkina Faso: French
  • Consent of communities - Mali: French
  • ICH inventory - Côte d’Ivoire: French
  • ICH inventory - Burkina Faso: French
  • ICH inventory - Mali: French

Decision 7.COM 11.21

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: Setting the life rhythm of the Senufo communities, the balafon accompanies significant events such as agricultural rites or initiation ceremonies, while providing the members of the community, from the youngest to the oldest, with a sense of identity and continuity;
  • R.2: Inscription of the balafon of the Senufo and its associated cultural practices and expressions on the Representative List would encourage intercultural dialogue and testify to human creativity, as a symbol of cooperation among residents of three countries;
  • R.3: A range of safeguarding measures from audiovisual documentation to awareness-raising initiatives rely on the participation of the Senufo communities, among whom they provoked great interest;
  • R.4: The Senufo communities have been involved in preparing the nomination through a series of consultations and have given their free, prior and informed consent through their traditional and customary leaders, musicians, dancers and other relevant resource persons;
  • R.5: The balafon of the Senufo is included in cultural heritage inventories of Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire respectively with the participation of communities, groups and relevant non-governmental organizations.

Inscribes the cultural practices and expressions linked to the balafon of the Senufo communities of Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Slideshow

Video


© DPC/2012

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