09.12.2016 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

East African participants benefit from listing, funding and capacity-building during the 11th session of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee

Participants from the Eastern Africa Region at the 11th session of the 2003 Intergovernmental Committee Meeting in Addis Ababa

Representatives from nine East African countries - Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda - participated in the 11th session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 28 November to 2 December 2016.

The role of the Intergovernmental Committee is to provide guidance on best practices and make recommendations on measures for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage in the framework of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. It examines requests submitted by States Parties for inscription of intangible heritage on one of three Lists: 1) List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding ; 2) Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity ; and 3) the Register of Best Safeguarding Practices.

During the 11th session, three elements from East Africa were added to these lists. Uganda had the Ma'di bowl lyre music and dance inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. Both Ethiopia and Mauritius had elements inscribed on the Representative List: the Gada system, an indigenous democratic socio-political system of the Oromo (Ethiopia) and Bhojpuri folk songs in Mauritius, Geet-Gawai (Mauritius).

  • The Ma’di bowl lyre music and dance is a cultural practice of the Madi people of Uganda. Passed on by the community’s ancestors, the songs and dances involved in the tradition are performed for various purposes, including weddings, political rallies, to celebrate good harvests, educate children, resolve conflict or mourn the passing of loved ones.
  • Gada is a traditional system of governance used by the Oromo people in Ethiopia developed from knowledge gained by community experience over generations. The system regulates political, economic, social and religious activities of the community dealing with issues such as conflict resolution, reparation and protecting women’s rights. It serves as a mechanism for enforcing moral conduct, building social cohesion, and expressing forms of community culture.
  • Geet-Gawai is a pre-wedding ceremony that combines rituals, prayer, songs, music and dance. It is performed mainly by Bhojpuri-speaking communities in Mauritius who have Indian descent. The traditional practice takes place at the home of the bride or groom and involves female family members and neighbours.

In addition to listing elements, the Intergovernmental Committee grants international assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund for activities aimed at safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. Assistance can be granted for: safeguarding of elements on the Urgent Safeguarding List; preparation of inventories; support for programmes, projects and activities aimed at the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage at the national, subregional and regional levels; and any other purposes the Committee may deem necessary, including capacity building and preparatory assistance.

International Assistance from the 2003 Fund has greatly benefitted the Africa Region. Since its inception, the Fund has granted a total of 7,879,422 USD to 43 African countries for 58 projects. In the Eastern Africa region, 9 projects in Kenya, Uganda, Seychelles and Mauritius have received funding from the 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund for a total amount of 711,750 USD. Extra-budgetary funding from donors such as Norway, Japan and the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority Funds in Trust to UNESCO, have benefitted: Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, Comores, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and South Sudan for a total of 1,316,331 USD for nine projects implemented over the past decade. In total, the Eastern Africa region has received 2,028,081 USD in financial assistance to support the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, in addition to the support provided by the UNESCO Regular Programme Funding.

Numerous side events were held during the Committee meeting, including one on Learning with Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in Education, which featured a best practice from Uganda Cross-Cultural Foundation. Another informal meeting was led by the Director of the UNESCO Creativity Division, which provided an opportunity for African States Parties to learn more about the 2003 Convention on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage, the 2005 Convention on the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, and the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as well as to consider the benefits of their implementation in the Africa region. Participants from eight East African countries participated in the meeting including: Uganda, Kenya, United Republic of Tanzania, Madagascar, Mauritius, South Sudan, Comoros and Djibouti.

For more information, please visit the 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention web site.

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