Sanké mon, collective fishing rite of the Sanké

Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

Country(ies): Mali



Sanké mon, collective fishing rite of the Sanké

The Sanké mon collective fishing rite takes place in San in the Ségou region of Mali every second Thursday of the seventh lunar month to commemorate the founding of the town. The rite begins with the sacrifice of roosters, goats and offerings made by village residents to the water spirits of the Sanké pond. The collective fishing then takes place over fifteen hours using large and small mesh fishing nets. It is immediately followed by a masked dance on the public square featuring Buwa dancers from San and neighbouring villages who wear traditional costumes and hats decorated with cowrie shells and feathers and perform specific choreography to the rhythms of a variety of drums. Traditionally, the Sanké mon rite marks the beginning of the rainy season. It is also is an expression of local culture through arts and crafts, knowledge and know-how in the fields of fisheries and water resources. It reinforces collective values of social cohesion, solidarity and peace between local communities. In recent years, the rite has seen a decrease in popularity that threatens to endanger its existence, contributory factors including ignorance of the event’s history and importance, a gradual decrease in attendance, occasional accidents during the event itself and the degradation of the Sanké lake due to poor rainfall and the effects of urban development.


Decision 4.COM 14.08

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: The Sanké mon, recognized by people of San as an important part of their cultural heritage, is a significant expression of traditional worldview that demonstrates the religious tolerance of the region and contributes to the transmission of traditional knowledge and practices; it celebrates the unity of this community through its ethnic diversity by bringing together different groups living within San to celebrate a shared history;
  • U2: Despite ongoing efforts of the traditional authorities to involve young people in the preparation of the festival as a means to pass on knowledge about the history of the community and promote respect for traditional cultural practices, and despite the efforts of local and national officials that led to the recognition of the festival as an important element of national cultural heritage, the transmission process is threatened by the loss of interest among young generations, their migration to urban areas and abroad, and environmental conditions that put the fragile ecosystem of the marsh at risk;
  • U3: Safeguarding measures including documentation and education of local residents and authorities will facilitate the transmission to young people of the community and encourage best practices that could contribute to protect the environmental health of the pond in the future;
  • U4: State authorities have worked closely with traditional authorities, local officials and the community at large to prepare the nomination project, which contains evidence of their free, prior and informed consent;
  • U5: The Sanké mon: collective fishing rite of the Sanké is inscribed in Mali’s Inventory of Natural, Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage.



© 2009 by DNPC

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