http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/USL/00509

Saman dance

Inscribed in 2011 (6.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

Country(ies): Indonesia

Identification

Description

Saman dance

The Saman dance is part of the cultural heritage of the Gayo people of Aceh province in Sumatra. Boys and young men perform the Saman sitting on their heels or kneeling in tight rows. Each wears a black costume embroidered with colourful Gayo motifs symbolizing nature and noble values. The leader sits in the middle of the row and leads the singing of verses, mostly in the Gayo language. These offer guidance and can be religious, romantic or humorous in tone. Dancers clap their hands, slap their chests, thighs and the ground, click their fingers, and sway and twist their bodies and heads in time with the shifting rhythm – in unison or alternating with the moves of opposing dancers. These movements symbolize the daily lives of the Gayo people and their natural environment. The Saman is performed to celebrate national and religious holidays, cementing relationships between village groups who invite each other for performances. The frequency of Saman performances and its transmission are decreasing, however. Many leaders with knowledge of the Saman are now elderly and without successors. Other forms of entertainment and new games are replacing informal transmission, and many young people now emigrate to further their education. Lack of funds is also a constraint, as Saman costumes and performances involve considerable expense.

Documents

Decision 6.COM 8.8

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

  • U1: Involving a community of not only players and trainers but also enthusiasts, prominent religious leaders, customary leaders, teachers and government officials, Saman dance promotes friendship, fraternity and goodwill and strengthens awareness of the historical continuity of the Gayo people;
  • U2: Saman dance faces weakening informal and formal modes of transmission due to reduced opportunities for performance and the disappearance of the cultural spaces where transmission takes place, associated with social, economic and political changes that include penetration of mass media and the rural-urban migration of the younger generations; knowledge of the element is diminishing and commercial activities are increasing, posing a threat to the continued meaning of Saman dance to its community;
  • U3: Ongoing local processes for safeguarding Saman dance, promoted within the community as well as from the authorities, are complemented by a coherent and detailed safeguarding plan presented with the participation of the community, the local government, and national level institutions, with objectives that clearly respond to the risks identified;
  • U4: The submitting State has established that the nomination resulted from a widely participatory process with the bearers and the community being involved at every stage and level; the free, prior and informed consent of trainers, players, enthusiasts, and community and government representatives has been clearly and unambiguously given;
  • U5: Despite the loss of important documentation on the Saman dance destroyed in the 2004 tsunami, the Office for Safeguarding of History and Cultural Values, Banda Aceh submitted inventory data that was accepted in 2010 by the Directorate General of Cultural Values, Arts and Film of the Department of Culture and Tourism.

Inscribes Saman dance on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
Commends the State Party’s efforts to ensure the widely inclusive participation of communities who suffered in recent years from great damage caused by a natural disaster, which demonstrates the healing power of intangible cultural heritage and epitomizes the spirit of the Convention;
Invites the State Party to reinforce the educational programme proposed in its safeguarding plan in order to revitalize traditional modes of transmission of the Saman dance in the mersah dormitories for young men;
Encourages the State Party to promote the participation of NGOs, the academic sector and/or cultural associations in relevant safeguarding activities, while setting clear responsibilities for the overall coordination of the safeguarding efforts.

Slideshow

Video


© FAMA Producciones, 2010

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