7.COM 8.6

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Lesotho has nominated Letsema, villagers coming together to accomplish heavy tasks communally for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Letsema is a Sesotho word associated with a form of communal work organized by members of the community (villagers, friends or relatives) performing different roles to accomplish a significant task that would take a single person days or weeks to complete. The practitioners are adults, both male and female. Letsema may be part of tasks such as collection of stones for house construction and threshing of sorghum or wheat. The initiator of the task prepares food for the participants and in most cases it becomes a very elaborate event with singing, poetry and ululation accompanying the communal work. The element strengthens family ties and encourages ethnic solidarity; even in the case of individuals without resources this communal work gives them a sense of mutual belonging, respect and appreciation. Letsema encourages the spirit and passion of teamwork and social cohesion within the community. The popularity of Letsema is dwindling, however, mostly due to increased migration of able-bodied men and women from rural to urban areas as a result of industrialization and urbanization. Since the market economy provides for payment of services in cash, communal work is becoming compromised.

  1. Decides that, from the information provided in nomination file 00695, Letsema, villagers coming together to accomplish heavy tasks communally does not satisfy the criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, as follows:

U.1:   The nomination does not make clear what is being proposed for safeguarding – whether it is the principle of working together or it is a set of specific practices; more information is needed particularly as regards the practitioners of Letsema, its cultural meaning for them and the contribution that it can make to the sustainable development of their communities;

U.2:   The nomination does not adequately describe the viability of the Letsema tradition or the socio-economic characteristics of its bearers; the threats identified, such as the lack of interest of the youth, the encroachment of technology and the migration of population to urban areas, are issues common to many countries and not specific to the communities that practise Letsema;

U.3:   The objectives and expected results specified in the safeguarding measures are overly general and the nomination elaborates neither the commitments of the State Party nor the involvement of the communities; more specific information is necessary to explain how the various activities proposed – among others, the promotion of agricultural cooperatives – would contribute to the safeguarding of Letsema;

U.4:   Although communities were contacted during the elaboration of the nomination, their participation was neither broad nor deep, and the evidence offered to demonstrate their free, prior and informed consent to the nomination instead constitutes a cession of rights to use associated documentation;

U.5:   The submitting State Party should provide further information to demonstrate that the nominated element is included in an inventory of the intangible cultural heritage drawn up with the participation of communities, groups and relevant non-governmental organizations and regularly updated, as stipulated in Articles 11 and 12 of the Convention;

  1. Decides not to inscribe Letsema, villagers coming together to accomplish heavy tasks communally on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding at this time and invites the State Party to submit a revised nomination that responds more fully to the criteria, for examination by the Committee in a subsequent cycle;
  2. Notes that the nomination resulted in part from a UNESCO/Flanders Funds-in-Trust cooperation project and the past efforts within the capacity-building strategy of UNESCO;
  3. Commends the State Party for presenting a nomination recognizing a traditional system of mutual assistance that reflects the spirit of the Convention;
  4. Invites the State Party to work closely with the communities concerned to define clearly what Letsema is and what it means to them, to assess its viability in their lives today and to identify clearly what threats it may face;
  5. Further invites the State Party to elaborate safeguarding measures that can strengthen the practice of Letsema and ensure its long-term viability, fully involving communities both in the elaboration of those measures and in their implementation;
  6. Encourages the State Party, should it wish to submit a revised nomination, to give careful attention to the requirements of the nomination form and to elaborate each section so as to provide the information needed for evaluation and examination;
  7. Recalls to the State Party that inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding does not imply the granting of financial assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund.

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