Projects and activities on intangible heritage in which UNESCO is involved
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A series of pilot projects in community-based intangible heritage inventorying on a grassroots level in six selected countries in Sub-Saharan Africa07-2009/01-2012, Botswana - Lesotho - Malawi - Uganda - Swaziland - Zambia
The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage aims at safeguarding living heritage. Unlike tangible heritage that is conventionally managed by heritage experts (e.g., architects, archaeologists, and conservators), intangible cultural heritage requires a participatory approach to safeguarding involving various stakeholders, most important of whom are the communities concerned. Among the obligations of States Parties to the Convention, the one that is expressed in strongest language is the duty to elaborate one or more inventories of the intangible heritage present on their territories with the participation of the communities concerned. An effective strategy to ensure the active participation of communities in the implementation of the Convention is to have them inventory their own Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The project, composed of four phases, is to conduct a series of pilot Intangible Cultural Heritage inventory-making activities on a grassroots level in six Sub-Saharan African countries, namely Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Uganda, Swaziland and Zambia. Six pilot communities (one in each country) will be selected in a demand-driven manner. This initial training workshop in Lesotho (15/20-02-2010 - Maseru), will be followed by similar ones in other countries and subsequently continued through several months of fieldwork in each country separately by the communities and cultural officers to inventory Intangible Cultural Heritage. Follow-up sessions will be organized to evaluate the quality of exercises and improve methodologies.
The project is timely and necessary considering that the strengthening of capacities for establishing inventories in Member States is one of the expected results of the UNESCO Major Programme IV: Safeguarding living heritage, particularly through the promotion and implementation of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Through the project, it is expected that national authorities together with communities would be able to devise cost-effective tools and methodologies to inventory Intangible Cultural Heritage which may serve in the future as a model for nation-wide Intangible Cultural Heritage inventorying exercises. The project is expected to assist the beneficiary countries in safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in line with the Convention.
The project is coordinated by UNESCO office in Windhoek, supported by the Intangible Heritage Section and UNESCO offices in Harare and Nairobi.
Safeguarding traditional foodways of two communities in Kenya09-2009/09-2011, Kenya
Traditional foodways involve practices transmitted within a community concerning the preparation and consumption of food, including the provision of ingredients and the roles of all people involved. Traditional foodways, both those related to everyday life as well as those associated with special occasions (such as rituals, social practices and festive events) constitute an important part of the intangible heritage of communities everywhere in the world. In Kenya, as in many other countries, there is an ongoing tendency due to the pressure of modernization and urbanization to abandon traditional foodways and to eat more and more western style food. Many young people are no longer aware of the traditional foodways of their communities. In other words, the diversity of foodways and related knowledge about nature in Kenya is at risk.
The project aims to (1) identify and inventory traditional foodways in two communities in Kenya (Eastern Pokot in the Rift Valley Province and Isukha of the Western Province), (2) encourage these communities to appreciate traditional food practices. The project also aims at (3) raising awareness in Kenya about the endangered diversity of its traditional foodways and related knowledge about nature.
The core activities of the project include (a) the preparation of a questionnaire and general protocol to be used for fieldwork and training of two coordinators who will supervise the actual fieldwork, (b) fieldwork among their communities with the involvement of students (e.g. age 13 to 15) to identify traditional foodways, (c) the preparation, on the basis of the collected information, of practical inventories (including recipes) of the traditional foodways of the two selected communities, (d) adjustment of the questionnaire with general protocol, and preparation of an introduction to it on the basis of the obtained field experiences, for possible future use in other communities, (e) dissemination of information about the project once it will have been terminated successfully.
Safeguarding of the Ifa Divination system10-2006/04-2010, Nigeria
- Ifa divination system
- © Wande Abimbola
Practiced among the Yoruba, Ifa divination relies on a complex system of signs, compiled in a literary corpus, that are interpreted by a diviner to guide important personal or collective decisions. The literary corpus is a treasury of knowledge concerning Yoruba history, philosophy, medicine and mythology.
This project aims at ensuring the intergenerational and peer transmission of Ifa through formalizing the transfer of knowledge of Ifa priests through the creation of a school. It intends to collect Ifa verses and medicinal recipes in order to ensure the quality of the training and to upgrade the existing documentation. Awareness-raising activities will be organized among the Yoruba to enhance their pride in their own culture as well as to inform people at large of the importance of Ifa.
Action Plan for the Safeguarding of the Makishi Masquerade in Zambia10-2006/12-2009, Zambia
- Makishi masquerade
- © 2010 by T. Banda / ZNCU
As part of initiation, boys leave their communities to live in a bush camp where they are taught practical skills as well as knowledge about nature, religion and social values. For their reintegration into the community, they perform the Makishi masquerade involving beautifully painted masks that represent different spiritual characters.
The safeguarding project seeks to:
- support the process of intergenerational and peer transmission of skills to younger generations, and
- promote awareness of the importance of safeguarding the Makishi Masquerade and the Mukanda among the Luvale community and among the Vaka Chinyama Cha Mukwamayi cultural grouping.
The activities include:
- capacity building for Zambian staff in the field of research and project management;
- advanced training workshops for Makishi masters to train the 8-12 year old aspiring young initiates; audiovisual documentation of knowledge and skills of Makishi masters; and
- measures targeted at raising public awareness through the formal education system and a national information campaign.
Safeguarding of the Gulu Wamkulu, the Great Dance of the Chewa People11-2006/12-2009, Malawi - Mozambique - Zambia
- Gule Wamkulu
- © Malawi National Commission for UNESCO
Performed by the Chewa people of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia, the Gule Wamkulu is a dance that accompanies initiation ceremonies, weddings, funerals and the installation of chiefs. Male dancers wear full costumes and masks made of wood and straw, expressing a great variety of spiritual and secular characters.
This multinational project, coordinated by the Malawian National Commission for UNESCO, includes, among others, the following safeguarding activities:
- capacity building among master practitioners (training of trainers) and training workshops for young initiates through exchange programmes and the distribution of educational materials;
- awareness raising effort through inter-village, national and multinational festivals and joint radio and TV programmes;
- support to Malawian, Zambian and Mozambican staff for research, documentation and the creation of an inventory on Gule Wamkulu, collating resources of all three countries;
- encouragement of legal protection of intangible cultural heritage.
For monitoring and continuous exchange among three countries, a multinational safeguarding committee composed of tradition bearers, Chewa authorities, and the respective national implementation agencies in each country has been created.
Safeguarding the Chopi Timbila tradition in Mozambique11-2006/12-2009, Mozambique
- Chopi Timbila
- © UNESCO/Pereira Cristiana
The Chopi people of southern Mozambique are famous for their orchestras of up to thirty wooden xylophones of varying sizes and ranges of pitch. Each year, several new pieces are composed and performed at social festivities and other community events in combination with the energetic Timbila dance.
The objectives of the safeguarding project are to:
- enhance the quality and authenticity of the Timbila instruments; strengthen transmission to younger generations;
- ensure access to scientific documentation on the Chopi Timbila;
- create opportunities for performance and exchange for Timbila practitioners;
- enhance legal protections and promote the social and economic interests of Timbila tradition bearers.
The project is expected to strengthen national measures of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage; strengthen safeguarding capacities at local and national levels particularly among the Timbila; contribute to better understanding of the importance of protection of cultural diversity and the need to respond to challenges posed by modernization and globalization; and provide understanding of the need to preserve the natural environment and how its degradation may force changes in the life of communities and the ways they express their culture.
Action Plan for the Safeguarding of the Vimbuza Healing Dance11-2006/12-2009, Malawi
- Healing Ritual connected to the Vimbuza Healing Dance
- © Francois-Xavier Freland / UNESCO
Popular among the Tumbuka people, the Vimbuza is practised by renowned traditional healers in a special ritual. Patients slowly enter trance, while the audience performs songs to call helping spirits. Vimbuza is a useful complement to other forms of medical treatment.
The safeguarding project seeks to:
- encourage the transmission of skills and knowledge to younger generations, and
- raise awareness about the importance of safeguarding the Vimbuza as part of traditional health practices.
The action plan includes:
- legal protections and training Vimbuza healers on intellectual property rights;
- creating an inventory based on field research in close cooperation with the practicing community;
- organizing dance festivals, thematic workshops and discussion panels broadcast on radio and television;
- developing educational programmes for young museum visitors of Mzuzu Regional Museum; and
- distributing educational leaflets in the Chitumbuka language.
Action plan for the Safeguarding of the Ahellil of Gourara12-2006/09-2009, Algeria
- Ahellil of Gourara
- © CNRPAH/UNESCO
The Ahellil is a series of collective chants performed at social gatherings and celebrations of the Berber-speaking population of the Gouara region. Starting with short well-known songs performed by the whole group, the performances build to a conclusion featuring the most accomplished singers.
The safeguarding action plan aims at/
- ensuring the viability of the Ahellil of Gourara through activities including the establishment of a “Committee for the Safeguarding of the Ahellil of Gourara” (CSAG) to implement the plan;
- encouraging transmission to younger generations by teaching Ahellil (initiation) in schools and colleges of Gourara;
- organizing training workshops on Ahellil music, poetry and choreography; identifying Ahellil bearers and conducting inventory-making and data collection?
- organizing an annual festival (with Jury and Awards) to promote the Ahellil; and
- creating a website and newsletter on Ahellil, supported by the production of audio and video materials.
Revitalization of bark cloth making in Uganda10-2006/08-2009, Uganda
- Barkcloth making in Uganda
- © J.K Walusimbi
The Mutaba tree provides the raw material for the delicate manufacture of bark-cloth. Produced for the royal family and other Buganda community members and highly recognized as a marker of cultural traditions, this precious cloth is worn at coronations and healing ceremonies, funerals and social gatherings.
The objectives of the safeguarding project are to:
- train craftspersons, especially young artisans, in making bark cloth; establish sustainable practices of using the Mituba trees;
- popularize the making and use of bark cloth; ensure legal protection and income generating activities; and
- promote recognition of and respect for the cultural value of bark cloth.
Training activities, to be widely publicized in the mass media and through public gatherings and events, are carried out to sensitize and train youth and communities generally in appreciating the cultural values in the techniques of planting and propagating the Mituba trees from which bark cloth is produced. A selected number of youth are to receive training on skills of bark cloth production.
Safeguarding of the Cimboa01-2009/08-2009, Cape Verde
The Cimboa safeguarding project is aimed at revitalizing the manufacture and practice of the Cimboa. The Cimboa is a single-stringed instrument originating from Continental Africa and introduced in Cape Verde by slaves who were taken to the islands.
The Cimboa is exclusively used during the Batuque to accompany songs and traditional dance, practiced on ceremonial occasions (particularly on marriage or child-naming occasions) by the slave community. It is a cultural expression shored up by a community which, in spite of the deprivation of freedom, has succeeded in transferring to its land of exile, a cultural and musical fund of wealth that has enabled it to maintain an umbilical link with the land of its ancestors from which it is now separated by the Ocean.
However, the Cimboa has suffered, for over thirty years now, a considerable setback in the Cape Verdian musical landscape to the point that its eventual disappearance could be expected. The threats are real indeed, since there is only one aged musician left, living in Ribeira Chiqueiro, who really knows how to manufacture and play the Cimboa. There is also one artist living in Tarrafal who has a perfect Cimboa manufacturing capacity.
The project will focus on the three aspects below :
- Training with a view to the inter-generational transmission of the production and practice of the Cimboa (through the identification and training of trainers and the organization of training workshops in partnership with the islands’ municipalities that have a historical relation with the Cimboa). This training will be linked to a campaign of recognition of the remaining practitioners, the most important of whom will be elevated to the rank or order of “living human treasure” entrusted with the principal mission of revitalizing the Cimboa.
- Creation of a databank on the Cimboa (setting up some collections or compendia on the Cimboa, filing and provision of data on the Cimboa by the IIPC).
- Awareness-raising activities on the importance of the Cimboa (in schools, at workshops organized in the municipalities and through participation in cultural events).
Safeguarding of the ICH of the Batammariba of Koutammarkou04-2007/06-2009, Togo
Koutammarkou, a site in the North-East of Togo inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004, shelters the Batammariba (“those who work the earth”) whose houses with turrets made of earth, the takyientas (“those who guard”), have become the symbol of Togo. This project aims at ensuring the safeguarding of the rich intangible cultural heritage of the Batammariba. That heritage, as well as the Litammari language is threatened by a number of factors. The project is a pilot for the integrated safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage of a community living in a World Heritage site.
The project aims at
- ensuring the transmission of skills and knowledge linked to different aspects of the intangible cultural heritage of the Batammariba,
- reinforcing the language,
- promoting respectful tourism,
- facilitating access to information concerning the culture of the Batammariba and
- sensitizing the population at large to the importance of the living culture of the Batammariba.
Training on how to enact various practices and experiences will be organized through master-apprenticeship transmission. Manuals will be developed and materials for teaching the language of the Batammariba in primary schools will be produced. Local guides will be trained and a code of conduct and a map of sacred areas will be elaborated. Traditions and practices will be inventoried. An archive and a cultural centre will be created. Cultural weeks will be organized. At the end of the project, new methods of transmission will have been set up; teaching material on the Batammariba culture and the Litammari language will have been developed and will be used in primary schools; respectful tourism will have been encouraged; the cultural and linguistic diversity of Togo will have been reinforced. The integrated approach for protecting the tangible and safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage of one and the same community will have been tested.
Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage and its bearers in Burundi06-2008/05-2009, Burundi
The preparation of the inventory of the intangible cultural heritage of Burundi is enshrined in the framework of the implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) adopted in 2003 by the UNESCO Member States.
This inventory is intended to identify oral traditions and expressions, poetry, performing arts (such as agasimbo, ingoma, intore, etc.), social practices, rituals and festive events (such as marriage, celebration of the birth of twins, etc.), knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe (medicine, etc.), as well as know-how linked to traditional craftsmanship (metalwork, pottery, basket-making, etc.). This inventory will take into account the cultural specificities of each region of the country.
The different elements of the ICH will be collected by local experts who will be identified on the basis of their training, experience and interest in the fields of anthropology, ethnomusicology, choreography, literature and oral traditions, as well as rural history. The inventory will be made with the participation of practitioners, individuals, families and, generally, at the level of clan entities.
On the basis of the inventoried elements, awareness-raising of the population will be undertaken, particularly at the school and community levels through the organization of promotional activities. In the same vein, radio-TV programmes, followed by debates, will be organized on the basis of the inventory. The promotion of specific elements pertaining to the ICH will be ensured by the Club “génies en herbe” under the supervision of the Department of African Languages and Literatures of the University of Burundi.
The project will be implemented by the Department of African Languages and Literatures of the University of Burundi, under the supervision of the UNESCO Office in Bujumbura and of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.
The main objective of the inventory being to contribute to the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage of Burundi, it will consist of:
- identifying elements of the intangible cultural heritage and
- promoting the identified heritage through various channels.
At the end of the project, Burundi will have at its disposal an inventory of the intangible cultural heritage, presented by type of expressions. The inventory will be disseminated through a publication as well as booklets among previously selected beneficiaries.
Safeguarding action plan of Yaaral and Degal11-2006/04-2009, Mali
- Cultural space of the Yaaral and Degal
- © DNPC, 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.
Action Plan for the Safeguarding of the Kankurang, Manding Initiatory Rite11-2006/04-2009, Gambia - Senegal
- Kankurang, Manding initiatory rite
- © Direction du patrimoine Culturel, Sénégal
The Kankurang is a protective spirit, embodied by a masked and costumed man, at the centre of a ritual system comprising songs, traditions and initiatory rites for young boys. The ritual ensures the transmission and teaching of complex know-how and practices underpinning Manding cultural identity.
This safeguarding project is designed to protect the natural environment in which the Kankurang ritual is practiced, to create meeting spaces or “museums of performance” for communities to practice and share their knowledge, to support an inventory of practices associated with the Kankurang in order to acquire a better knowledge of it, and to sensitize public opinion to its importance. It will therefore focus on establishing adequate management structures in both countries, creating two pilot centers in Kankurang areas and documenting and producing promotional materials. Protecting the natural environment in which the ritual is practiced will be ensured through classification of sacred forests, organizing training in protected areas management and replanting plant species indispensable to the ritual.
Safeguarding traditional games of the Afar and the Somali people in the Horn of Africa12-2006/03-2009, Djibouti
Traditional board games have long been an important pastime among the nomadic societies of the Horn of Africa. Practice and transmission of these games is now at risk, though, as a result of urbanization and the effects of globalization.
This safeguarding project aims at revitalizing the transmission of the knowledge and skills related to traditional board and ball games in the Horn of Africa. The rules of the games as well as their origins and functions will be researched, and kits and manuals on these games will be published and distributed. The project will organize workshops and tournaments in order to increase transmission by practitioners and continued practice of traditional games by young people. Public information and awareness-raising will also be done through the media.
Safeguarding the Mbende Jerusarema Dance11-2006/03-2009, Zimbabwe
- Mbende Jerusarema dance
- © UNESCO / Chimbidzikai Mapfumo
A popular dance style practised by the Zezuru Shona people living in eastern Zimbabwe, the Mbende Jerusarema is characterized by acrobatic and sensual movements by women and men, driven by a polyrhythmic drummer accompanied by men playing woodblock clappers and by women handclapping, yodelling and blowing whistles.
The safeguarding project aims at strengthening the transmission process by,
- organizing workshops for master practitioners and training teachers,
- providing opportunities for youth to learn the dance and be introduced to its history and meaning.
- conducting research and audiovisual documentation of the traditional dance forms and repertoire of movements, accompanied by interviews of practitioners;
- promoting dance among young people in and outside the Murewa and UMP communities, through soliciting the participation of youth dance groups at local schools in the Jukinya and the National Schools Festival for traditional dance.
The safeguarding activities will be decentralised and implemented by local organizations and the Mbende Jerusarema Safeguarding Committee composed of master practitioners, local dance associations, traditional authorities and education experts.
Safeguarding the Songs of the Moon, traditional Swahili music from Tanzania (Unguja and Pemba) and the Comoros04-2008/03-2009, Comoros - United Republic of Tanzania
Taarab music is a traditional form of Swahili cultural expression. Popularly known as Swahili wedding music, taarab musicians and music are an essential part of various multi-day festivities in Zanzibar. Complementary to the activities implemented by UNESCO Dar es Salaam in 2005-2007 in the village of Mahonda and Pemba island– rural areas of the islands of Zanzibar, the project aims at further safeguarding the taarab music in Zanzibar and the Comoros by strengthening the teaching of traditional music styles in remote areas.
The immediate objective is to create, through the expansion of the school of the Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA), an Zanzibarian NGO, and musical exchanges between Zanzibar and the Comoros, a permanent opportunity for local musicians to be instructed and to share their knowledge.
Through the project, it is expected that,
- the music activities and employment opportunities for local musicians in remote areas be strengthened;
- musical tradition be preserved, intergenerational dialogue furthered; and
- CD as recorded during the documentation of musical exchanges between musicians be produced.
Safeguarding traditional Somali performing arts04-2008/03-2009, Kenya - Somalia
Before the civil war Somalia enjoyed a vibrant cultural life, in which traditional performing arts played a major role. Aware of the role that cultural practices may play in fostering social cohesion and in reconciliation processes in future post-conflict Somalia, the project aims to
- identify traditional performing arts practices of Somali people with a view to safeguarding this heritage,
- highlight the role that cultural practices can play in reconciliation process for the post conflict Somalia, and
- contribute to the rehabilitation of Somali culture.
Core activities of the project include:
- the identification of traditional performing arts of Somali communities in the North Eastern Province in Kenya;
- the preparation of a draft inventory of those traditions; and
- the acquisition of extant audiovisual materials related to traditional performing arts of Somali people.
Safeguarding of traditional music in Ethiopia01-2005/01-2009, Ethiopia
The project is composed of the following four activities.
- Identification, Documentation and Inventory making - An important goal of this project is to collect through fieldwork, and to document traditional music and dance expressions in different parts of Ethiopia.
- Archiving - the recordings collected in the field and the documentation that goes with them will need to be archived to make them available to researchers and to the public at large.
- Training and enhancing capacities - this is to contribute to the training of Ethiopian students and to the further empowerment of Ethiopian experts and specialized institutions. University-level courses on ethnomusicology, which, for examples, will heavily rely on references to Ethiopian traditional music and dance expressions, will be given at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and at the Yared Music School (University of Addis Ababa).
- Promotion - The project aims to raise general awareness in the country, particularly amongst decision makers, about the existence, the beauty and value of the traditional music and dance expressions.
Preservation, Revitalization and Promotion of Jemaa el-Fna Square, Marrakech03-2004/12-2008, Morocco
- Cultural space of Jemaa el-Fna Square
- © UNESCO / Jane Wright
Dating back to the fourteenth century, the triangular Jemaa el-Fna Square has become the symbol of Marrakech, protected as part of Morocco’s artistic heritage since 1922. It features a unique concentration of traditions, such as storytelling, healing and various forms of entertainment as well as commercial activities.
The project consists of pedagogical workshops, which have been organized in several schools around Marrakech. The preparatory work necessary for archiving and creating databases has started. Books and educational materials about the cultural space will be published, and a website will be designed.
The project aims to raise awareness within schools as well as in communities at the national and international levels. It also expects to facilitate the transmission of knowledge to younger generations and document the intangible cultural heritage elements associated with this cultural space.
Organization of three sub-regional capacity-building workshops for Africa07-2007/12-2008,
The project (209 988 USD), co-funded by UNESCO regular programme, aimed at supporting the inscription of African intangible cultural heritage on the lists of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, through organizing the following three Capacity-Building Workshops for African states:
- Sub-regional Capacity-Building Workshop on the Implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage for East and South Africa
- Sub-regional Capacity-Building WorksSub-regional workshop on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage for West and Central Africa
- Capacity-Building workshop on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage for the African States Parties to the 2003 Convention
Action Plan for the Safeguarding and Promotion of the Oral Tradition of Gelede10-2003/11-2008, Benin - Nigeria - Togo
- Oral heritage of Gelede
- © UNESCO/ Yves Parfait Koffi
The Gelede ceremony, held in honour of the primordial mother Iyà Nlà, is directed by women, reflecting their important role in Yoruba life. After weeks of preparations, singers and drummers open the night-time ceremony, followed by an orchestra and masked dancers wearing splendid costumes.
The project aims at safeguarding the Gelede tradition in communities across Benin, Nigeria and Togo. Following the initiatives of the government of Benin, which has constructed the International House of Gelede, the project encompasses: awareness-raising campaigns; training workshops for young people and seminars for master practitioners devoted to dance, choreography, sculptural techniques and costume making; publications on the Gelede cultural tradition and an international symposium.
To date, awareness-raising and information campaigns have been carried out in various communities in Benin, Nigeria and Togo, supported by promotional radio programmes. A partnership between the Association Groupe Gèlèdè de Savè and the University of Ifè in Nigeria has been established, and the first training workshops for masters and apprentices have been carried out in Kétou and Kilibo (Benin), generating an increased community interest for further training programmes.
Action Plan for the Safeguarding and Revitalization of the Oral Tradition of the Aka Pygmies of the Central African Republic12-2004/07-2008, Central African Republic - Congo
- Polyphonic singing of the Aka Pygmies of Central Africa
- © Commission nationale Centrafricaine et Ministere de la jeunesse et des sports, arts et culture
The polyphonic songs of the Aka Pygmies are an integral part of their hunting and life-cycle rituals, a tool of communication and reaffirmation of community values. With socio-economic changes, deforestation and rural exodus, the Aka traditions are inclined to gradually disappear.
The project began with field research focused on documentation and anthropological data collection in the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo. A database on the oral tradition of the Aka Pygmies was then created, which will be accessible to national and international researchers as well as the communities concerned. A subregional festival of the Aka Pygmies’ music and dance will be organised, in addition to training seminars and radio and national television programmes.
This project will contribute to sensitizing the populations of both countries and enrich their national identity, enabling them to obtain more knowledge about the intangible heritage of the Aka Pygmies and, ultimately, encouraging cultural dialogue and the cultural integration of the Aka Pygmies in subregional Central Africa.
Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Sosso-Bala07-2002/06-2008, Guinea
- Cultural space of Sosso-Bala
- © Philippe Bordas / UNESCO
A sacred symbol of freedom and identity of the Manding community, the Sosso-bala is a wooden xylophone or balafon played on occasions such as the Muslim New Year and burials. The master players, holding an important position in Manding society, teach children as young as seven.
The project includes the study and documentation of customary methods of conservation and transmission of oral expressions and traditional music relating to the Sosso-Bala. The project also calls for training the bearers of this musical tradition, equipping them with the skills to make audio-visual recordings. Furthermore, the project promotes the Sosso-Bala through publications, photography, films and CDs as well as performances, exhibitions and festivals.
A project steering committee composed of specialists and representatives of relevant ministries has been set up and has taken initiatives to safeguard this traditional music. Intensive workshops for local practitioners are ready to be implemented.
Action Plan for the Safeguarding of the Woodcrafting Knowledge of the Zafimaniry12-2004/06-2008, Madagascar
- Woodcrafting knowledge of the Zafimaniry
- © Direction du Patrimoine Culturel, Ministère de la Culture de Madagascar
The Zafimaniry community of about 25,000 people practices a unique wood crafting culture. Most wooden surfaces in their villages – from utensils to houses – are delicately crafted, displaying elaborate ornamentation. These motifs carry rich symbolic significance related to Zafimaniry cosmovision and values.
The project will help to raise awareness within the Zafimaniry community about the value of their traditions and improve living standards among them through the creation of income-generating activities. It also intends to foster the continued practice of woodcrafting through certain measures, including the preservation of the community’s natural environment.
Research and documentation of the Zafimaniry’s woodcrafting knowledge will be conducted. Structures at the national, regional and local levels will be created in order to assure the safeguarding of the knowledge in the long term. Workshops focusing on teaching and transmitting traditional techniques will be organized. A reforestation programme will also be implemented.
Safeguarding endangered oral traditions in East Africa10-2007/01-2008, Kenya
- Final report Mr Jacob Mhando (National Museum of Kenya) (English)
Transmission of traditional Knowledge in Burundian Refugee Camps of Tanzania in view of a sustainable repatriation07-2006/12-2007, United Republic of Tanzania
The project, elaborated as a result of a fieldwork carried out in 2006 by Dr Fouéré, implemented story-telling sessions as a way to transmit Burundian traditional knowledge to young Burundian refugees settled in refugee camps in Western Tanzania. This one-year activity was aimed to facilitate the sustainable repatriation of refugees to Burundi and their smooth reintegration into their society. A number of elderly custodians of intangible cultural heritage were committed to tell traditional tales and stories during weekly story-telling sessions from November 2006 to November 2007. Traditional drummers were mobilized to play drums during the event. Elderly story-tellers explained the meaning of selected stories to the audience, retracing their links to Burundian history and tradition and their message in the current context of refugee camps as well as in the post-conflict context of Burundi. In doing so, it prevented a living culture from being transformed into a set of folkloric tools bearing no connection to its specific historical and political context. It also contributed to fostering cohesion and national integration for peace-building in Burundi. All tales and stories were also broadcast through local radio and listened to both by Burundi refugees in Tanzania and by Burundians in Burundi.
The refugees who participated in these activities appreciated how they contributed to raising awareness of the value of safeguarding traditional knowledge at the community level. The project has demonstrated the importance of incorporating the transmission of traditional cultural knowledge in refugee camps as a vital dimension of humanitarian programs in order to facilitate the socio-cultural reintegration of refugees upon return to their home country and foster national unity and peace-building.
Creation of a Living Human Treasures system in Nigeria05-2004/09-2007, Nigeria
Capacity-building in safeguarding African languages and oral traditions and expressions in Sub-Saharan Africa06-2005/06-2007,
This initiative to promote African languages aimed to:
- Strengthen national and regional institutional capacities for language preservation,
- Promote south-south and north-south cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa, and
- Foster the implementation of national language policies.
- “Joining forces for preserving Africa’s linguistic diversity,” Mali, March 2006
- © UNESCO
The project funded the organization of the following two meetings:
- Joining Forces for Preserving Africa’s Linguistic Diversity
- Identifying Good Practices in Safeguarding Endangered Languages in Africa
The network-building, information sharing and peer training that took place at these meetings represent a major contribution to institutional capacity for language preservation in Sub-Saharan Africa. More concretely, the project resulted in:
- A database of all African research institutions in the field of languages, including their past work and current research priorities, which ACALAN will use to coordinate future efforts,
- New proposals for cooperation among the newly-established network of linguists, including a Pan-African Master’s and PhD Programme in African Languages and Applied Linguistics,
- Petitions sent to Heads of Universities and the African Union seeking support in the formulation of language policy, and
- African contributions to UNESCO’s ongoing Register of Good Practices in Language Preservation.
Safeguarding and Revitalizing Sillanka in Burkina Faso2007, Burkina Faso
- A Sillanka language class
- © Gérard Kedrebéogo
Sillanka, the language of the Sillanko people in Burkina Faso, was spoken by fewer than seven hundred people in 1989. Toward the end of the twentieth century, concern within the community for the fate of their mother tongue intensified, leading to this project to maintain and promote the use of Sillanka and to safeguard Sillanko cultural heritage.
In 2007, the Institute for Social Science in Burkina Faso worked with the language community to advance its goals by:
- Building and equipping a community and cultural centre, Sillanka Wundi (“Sillanka House”), opened in June 2008 at a ceremony attended by local and national political, religious, and academic leaders,
- Documenting the language and oral traditions,
- Initiating writing classes for 30 Sillanko using a newly devised lexicon and reading manual and
- Organizing a National Subcommittee on Sillanko to take advantage of rising interest in the cultural heritage and local knowledge of this community.
- A village elder records Sillanka
- © UNESCO
With a new writing system and a new site for community activity, the Sillanke are well positioned to build on the success of this project and continue to revitalize their linguistic heritage.
Reviving N|u in the #Khomani Community of Namibia2006/2007, Namibia
N|u is a highly endangered Southern Khoesan language, spoken fluently in 2006 by only eight #Khomani elders. This project built on desire within the #Khomani community to preserve the mother tongue by facilitating language education.
- #Khomani youth at a language camp
- © UNESCO
A linguist from the University of Namibia, himself a speaker of the related, moderately endangered Khoekhoe language, developed a writing system for N|u in 1998 and began informally teaching it to #Khomani youth. With assistance from UNESCO in 2006/2007, he:
- Purchased for the local community centre a computer capable of playing DVDs and CDs of elders recounting stories in N|u and able to record new documentation,
- Conducted three language camps for forty #Khomani youth and
- Cultivated among the next generation interest and pride in the mother tongue, which alone can prevent N|u from disappearing in a matter of years.
Enhancing Women’s Role as Custodians and Artisans of Egyptian Handicrafts01-2005/05-2006, Egypt
For over centuries, women have used their innovative and artistic talents to create artefacts passing them from mother to daughter. The “Tally” embroidery, famous in Upper Egypt, and the cross-stitches embroidery of both Siwa and Sinai are unique forms of art dating back to the 19th century. This heritage is under threat because of the permeation of advanced and easier technologies, and a lack of market awareness.
In response to the threat of industrial standardization, the Egyptian National Council for Women (NCW) has taken initiatives with UNESCO to safeguard Egyptian intangible heritage manifested in the domains of traditional craftsmanship, oral traditions and expressions, proverbs and performing arts. This project included documentation in combination with the collection of all forms and patterns of the Tally. It also aimed at training young women artists, craftsmen, documentalists and teachers in recording and documenting the work and in accessing and retrieving historical artistic records. Furthermore, small-scale enterprises were developed to create gainful employment to women living in underserved regions and villages.
From spoken to written languages in Cameroon2005/2006, Cameroon
- A Bembele speaker reviews the newly-created alphabet in Cameroon
- © UNESCO
This project created and disseminated writing systems for Bembele and Gbete, two minority languages of the Niger-Congo family spoken in the Bertoua region of southwest Cameroon. As part of a documentation project developed by the NACALCO Center for Applied Linguistics, two young Cameroonian linguists worked in close cooperation with the speakers to establish writing principles and produce reference materials for use in literacy classes, bilingual and adult education and written media. Beyond drawing up these orthography guides, teaching manuals and word lists, the linguists also trained community members as language teachers. The speakers have now taken over the project themselves and organized language education in their community. As literacy in Bembele and Gbete spreads, speakers will be empowered to use their language in a range of new domains of communication and media.
Reviving tifinagh, the ancient script of the Tuareg2003/2006, Niger
- Tuareg proverbs collected in Tifinagh
- © UNESCO
Some two-thirds of the estimated 1.5 million Tuareg living in Niger use their traditional language, Tamajaq, on a daily basis. Although Tamajaq’s ancient script, Tifinagh, continues to be transmitted to children as a means of preserving Tuareg identity, the unusual script is rarely used nowadays in Niger. This project aimed to revitalize Tifinagh.
- The new Tifinagh journal Amanar is distributed in Agadez, Niger
- © UNESCO
From 2003 to 2006, UNESCO assisted the Association for the Promotion of Tifinagh in Agadez, Niger in the publication, in both Tifinagh and French, of the new bimonthly journal Amanar, various teaching materials and several booklets devoted to oral traditions and expressions. Five hundred copies of each of the booklets were distributed in village libraries and schools, and the journal was sold in the Tuareg communities of northern Niger. Classes organized in 2003 taught approximately two thousand Tuareg the script. These efforts excited intense interest among Tuareg groups and engendered pride in being able to use Tifinagh actively again.
Improved Traditional Bead Production and Marketing in West Africa02-2002/01-2005, Ghana - Mali
Beads are widely used in West African cultures; major passages of life, for instance, are marked by the wearing of appropriate beads. In addition to their function in social and cultural expressions, the continuation of beads production is important for economic empowerment and sustainable development.
With a view to strengthening traditional beads production, the project included a survey on the production of traditional beads in Ghana and Mali and on their marketing. The resulting report led to a monograph entitled “Practical improved bead production manual”, which was distributed to stakeholders in these two countries. In addition, seven bead producers from Ghana and Mali attended a high-level workshop (Murano, Italy) in order to improve their bead production technology and marketing strategies.
This workshop provided the experts with the opportunity to establish an international network and to exchange knowledge. Furthermore, this domain of traditional craftsmanship and know-how, which has been transmitted orally for centuries, is now documented through a manual on bead making techniques. It is expected that this document will be used for vocational education, that it will help bead makers to improve their income, and that it will eventually support them to further develop and transmit their knowledge and skills to future generations.
Survey and Archive of Endangered Languages on the Adamawa2004/2005, Cameroon
This project, implemented by a team of Cameroonian and international researchers in 2004 and 2005, had two major aims:
- to survey language vitality in the Adamawa Escarpment region, assessing factors such as intergenerational transmission, domains of use, and number of speakers for local languages. The results of the survey, along with other sociolinguistic data, were compiled into an inventory that will allow the researchers to prioritize documentation work to be done on these languages;
- to provide young Cameroonian scholars with training in array of techniques necessary to conduct detailed linguistic documentations and archive language data electronically in the most useful way. This work will enable the trainees to initiate and direct similar projects in the future.
Promotion and documentation of women’s intangible cultural heritage in Mauritania2004/2005, Mauritania
The aim of this initiative, implemented in 2004/2005, was to promote the role of women as bearers and creators of a rich intangible heritage, in particular oral traditions (stories, tales, proverbs, etc.) and traditional knowledge (cooking, traditional craftsmanship etc.) in the Maghreb region. The pilot project of this initiative was launched in Mauritania, a country where oral heritage plays a particularly important role for the transmission of traditional knowledge and cultural identity.
The project aimed at collecting traditional stories from women in the four national languages of Mauritania (Hassaniya, Peul, Soninke and Wolof), based on the existing archives of oral heritage started by the IMRS (Mauritanian Institute for Scientific Research). The collected material was used for the preparation of learning material in the four national languages within the framework of literacy projects.
Safeguarding of the linguistic heritage of pygmy communities in Gabon2002/2005, Gabon
Following earlier work to protect the cultural resources of the pygmies of Gabon that identified language as a domain requiring urgent attention, UNESCO’s Libreville Office undertook a linguistic project in 2004 and 2005 to prepare a comprehensive wordlist of Koya, the language of the Bakoya. a pygmy people. A local linguist, in coordination with a local NGO and an association representing the Bakoya people, collected and analyzed the necessary data, publishing a wordlist of more than 1000 entries. The speaker community participated as an active partner throughout the process.
Research and Documentation on Iigau and Iyinno (Ukaan group of languages)2004/2005, Nigeria
- Recording endangered languages in Ondo State, Nigeria
- © UNESCO
This project funded much-needed research into Iigau and Iyinno, two minority, unwritten languages used in two small towns of Ondo State, Nigeria. In 2004 and 2005, linguists from the Adeyemi College of Education (Ondo, Ondo State), in close cooperation with the speaker communities, recorded data such as speeches and folktales and prepared documentation (phonetic charts, syllable structure, orthography, lexical items, etc.) on both languages. The researchers also created manuals, lexicals and primers in these languages using the newly established writing system. As a frist step towards applying the fruits of this project in the speaker communities themselves, the coordinators organized workshops on the basic linguistic principles of Iigau and Iyinno and helped the speakers develop educational materials in their mother-tongue.
Support for ACALAN: African Academy of Languages,
The project gives support to ACALAN, the African Academy of Languages, in particular to promote regional and sub-regional cooperation. The funds will be used for the publication of ACALAN’s Information Bulletin.