27.11.2011 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

A third element from Africa gets on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage

The current session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage, meeting in Bali (Indonesia) until 29 November 2011, has inscribed a third element from Africa on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This brings to 14 the number of new elements inscribed on the list so far.

The new element is the cultural practices and expressions linked to the balafon of the Senufo communities of Mali and Burkina Faso The balafon of the Senufo communities of Mali and Burkina Faso is a pentatonic xylophone composed of eleven to twenty-one keys of varying lengths arranged on a trapezoidal frame with gourd resonators of varying sizes arranged beneath.

Under the instruction of a teacher, one first learns to play a children’s balafon before advancing to full-size ones. Played solo or as part of an ensemble during festivities, prayers, work, funerals and more, the balafon is a symbol of community identity.

Two other African elements were added to the List of Intangible Heritage in need for Urgent safeguarding. They are a rite of wisdom from Mali and an epic from Mauritania.


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