15.04.2014 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Push to promote and preserve Senegal’s Bassari Country heritage

The new Cultural Centre in Bandafassi will be inaugurated by the President of Senegal on 19 April 2014 ©UNDP

Not long ago the hilly and cultural-rich Bassari Country in the south-eastern corner of Senegal was little known to the world. Today, it’s a World Heritage Site, following its inscription in 2012. This month, on 19 April 2014, the president of Senegal, His Excellency Mr. Macky Sall, inaugurated the Cultural Center of Bandafassi, a small community right in the heart of the Bassari Country.

This event marks a major achievement in the implementation of a MDG-F project on Culture and Development in Senegal funded by Spain. This 6,5 million US $ project, started in 2008 and was coordinated by UNESCO’s Regional Office in Dakar and carried out jointly with agencies of the United Nations (UNDP, UNFPA , UNIDO, UNWTO) and the Government of Senegal.

During the inauguration, the Senegalese President engaged in providing a running annual budget of 20 mio. CFA ($42.000) to the Cultural Centre in Bandafassi  

The cultural centre in Toubacouta, located in the Saloum Delta of Senegal, which was inaugurated in May 2013, will receive the same amount. The Saloum Delta was declared a World Heritage Site in 2011.

The President also made a strong appeal to his fellow citizens to discover Senegal's rich diversity and visit these two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Why a cultural center?

The Cultural Center of Bandafassi is part of a development strategy to provide a modern and attractive cultural infrastructure close to Kédougou, the main town in the Bassari Country. It’s composed of a community radio station, meeting rooms, 10 huts recreating the life and culture of different ethnic communities of the region and accommodation for tourists. The objective of the Cultural Center is to explain and sensitize the local communities, Senegalese and international visitors to the value of this heritage encouraging its safeguarding.

“I strongly appeal that the preservation and promotion of the Bassari Country and its outstanding universal value, as recognized through the inscription on the World Heritage List, is understood as everyone's business,” says the Director of UNESCO’s Regional Office in Dakar, Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta. “I encourage the local populations as well as all citizens of Senegal to give this beautiful region the means to ensure its cultural and economic development so as to ensure its preservation for future generations,” she adds.

An original response

The Bassari landscape is marked by terraces and rice paddies, interspersed with villages, hamlets and archaeological sites. The villages of the Bediks are formed by dense groups of huts with steeped thatched roofs.

Their inhabitants’ cultural expressions are characterized by original traits of agro-pastoral, social, ritual and spiritual practices, which represent an original response to environmental constraints and human pressures. However and despite the communities’ attachment to their traditions, culture in the Bassari County is on the move, especially for the young generation that is coping with radically new economic and social realities.

Promotion of traditional know-how

The Cultural Center will play a central role in explaining and promoting respect for the rich and diverse Bassari, Fulani and Bédik. UNESCO, together with its UN partners and national authorities, has set the basis for increased awareness and valorization of the region. This includes the creation of the Bassari Country Ballet.

“UNESCO remains mobilized,” says Mrs Ndong-Jatta, “It is now important to capitalize on the efforts made and consolidate the results in a sustainable manner together with other technical and financial partners”.

Recently, a photo exhibition on the façade of UNESCO Dakar Office showcased ten beautiful photos from the Saloum Delta and Bassari Country. The photos are also available online for the general public

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