26.06.2018 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

Comoros launches a new project to safeguard intangible cultural heritage for sustainable development

Artisan from the Masogno Sitara Collective demonstrating the kofia embroidery technique during the ICH project launch ceremony in Comoros. ©UNESCO/Karalyn Monteil

On 25 June 2018, his Excellency Mr. Mahamoud Salim HAFI, the Minister of Youth, Sports, Professional Integration, Arts and Culture opened a national workshop to raise awareness of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage. He was joined by Mr. Mathias NAAB, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Comoros and over a hundred participants from the three islands of the Union of Comoros who attended the launching ceremony for the project.

With financial support from the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (ADTCA) Funds-in-Trust to UNESCO, the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Professional Insertion, Arts and Culture and the UNESCO Regional Office for East Africa launched the "Capacity Building Project for the Safeguarding of Comoros’ Intangible Cultural Heritage for Sustainable Development" on Monday, 25 June 2018 in Moroni. Participants were welcomed by traditional dancers and musicians of the UJM Association of Iconi as well as artisans from the Swanaakom and Masogno Sitara Collectives demonstrating traditional embroidery (kofia and draguila), basketwork, pottery and sculptures.

The launching ceremony of the project on intangible cultural heritage (ICH) was followed by a press conference with a dozen national media who were able to ask questions to a panel led by the Director-General of Arts and Culture, Ms. Wahidat Hassani, along with: the UNESCO International Expert on ICH, Mr. Mohamed Lemine Beidjeu; the National Project Coordinator, Ms. Djabhana Said Ibrahim, and the Regional Advisor for Culture from the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, Ms. Karalyn Monteil.

Following the project launch, approximately 30 participants including national authorities for culture, representatives from the University of Comoros, the CNDRS (National Center for Documentation and Scientific Research), the Comoros Collective, national experts, communities, civil society, and other stakeholders were invited to participate in an awareness-raising workshop on ICH led by Mr. Beidjeu from 25 to 29 June 2018 at the Golden Tulip Hotel (former Itsandra Hotel).

Comoros ratified the Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013. In 2015, UNESCO commissioned a national needs assessment for the implementation of the ICH Convention in Comoros. The results of the study formed the basis for the project proposal to ADTCA. The approved project, totaling USD 249,435 (approximately KMF 101,520,045), will be carried-out over 16 months and consist of three main activities aimed at:

· Strengthening legislative and institutional frameworks for improved implementation of the 2003 Convention at the national level;

· Developing the human resource capacities of the main institutions in charge of cultural heritage, universities and civil society; and

· Training relevant institutions and civil society to conduct inventories, particularly through "participatory videos", for better documentation and safeguarding of ICH.

During his speech for the launching ceremony of the project, the Minister of Culture called for the engagement of all stakeholders in safeguarding Comoros intangible cultural heritage. He recalled that, "As seen in the preamble of the proposed new national constitution, the President of Comoros aims to nurture national unity by promoting not only religious and moral practices, but also by developing culture and promoting heritage as part of the spirit of the nation. This new citizen whom the Head of State is targeting must be a protector of Comoros cultural heritage, notably its intangible cultural heritage.” He stressed that, "Communities are the guardians of sanctuaries for our cultural values ​​and traditions. They remain the main actors to identify, document, promote, conserve and transmit intangible cultural heritage to future generations.” The Minister concluded his speech by warmly thanking the Abu Dhabi authorities for their unwavering financial support and expressing gratitude to UNESCO for the implementation of this project.

In his opening remarks, the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations Agencies in Comoros, Mr. Mathias Naab "... wished the participants success in the implementation of this ambitious project, which aims to: strengthen the national legislation and cultural policy of Comoros; form a national steering committee to oversee the safeguarding of Comoros’ intangible cultural heritage beyond the finalization of project activities; and develop the first inventory of the rich intangible cultural heritage, which symbolizes the national identity of Comorian communities and the country." He ended his intervention by asserting: "I am confident that the partners and experts assembled around this project will ensure the success of the activities; and the dedication of the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Professional Integration, Arts and Culture will ensure that the project results contribute to sustainable development of the country."

Recommendations of the workshop, in French only

Project Brochure of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Comoros ( in French only)

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