8.COM 7.A.7

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Kenya has nominated Enkipaata, Eunoto and Olng’esherr: three male rites of passage of the Maasai community (No. 00887) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Between the ages of 15 and 30, young men of the Maasai community undergo three interrelated male rites of passage. The aim is to transmit social values and educate initiates in their responsibilities as men in Maasai society. The first rite, Enkipaata, inducts the boys as warriors, who must keep their hair unshaved and set up a homestead in a secluded village where they work, eat and perform duties collectively. They receive oral instruction on Maasai rituals, rearing livestock, family linkages, and conflict management and resolution, transmitted through lessons, songs, folk-tales, proverbs and riddles. The second rite, Eunoto, is the shaving of the hair, representing the start of adulthood. The third rite, Olng’esherr, is a meat-eating ceremony marking the beginning of eldership. Women construct huts for the initiates, make key artefacts, prepare meals, perform dances and songs, and shave the hair of the initiates. The rites provide the Maasai with a sense of cultural identity and continuity and enhance unity and cohesiveness. At present, transmission is weakening as a result of reduced frequency, shrinking participation and a decline in the number of elders. The shift towards an agricultural economy has also encroached on land previously used for the rites.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List:

U.1:   An integral part of the social and cultural fabric of the Maasai community, the three male rites of passage facilitate the transmission of values and knowledge between generations, integrating youth into Maasai society and providing them a sense of identity;

U.2:   Despite the efforts of the community, the practice and transmission of the element are declining due to changes in the land tenure system, shift from a pastoral to an agricultural lifestyle, climate change, migration for employment, as well as the increased value given to formal education;

U.5:   The element is included in the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Kenya, managed and updated by the Ministry of State for National Heritage and Culture;

  1. Further decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination does not satisfy the following criteria for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List:

U.3:   The proposed safeguarding measures, such as those focused on reinforcing the capacities and involvement of Maasai communities as well as the use of mentorship between older and younger members, present certain strengths; nevertheless, other measures are not clearly defined – particularly the role of the cultural centres to be constructed – and the usefulness of inventorying and mapping of spaces for the practice and transmission of the element is not demonstrated; the financing of activities relies heavily on the mobilization of the community resources and on funding assumed to come from UNESCO, but which is not guaranteed, and the commitments of the State are not well demonstrated;

U.4:   The widest possible participation in the nomination process of relevant groups and practitioners of the Maasai community, especially youth, is not demonstrated; evidence of free, prior and informed consent was provided from the nine Maasai sections, but only one is identified as a concerned community organization or representative;

  1. Decides not to inscribe Enkipaata, Eunoto and Olng’esherr: three male rites of passage of the Maasai community on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Recognizes the ongoing efforts made by the State Party to safeguard these rites of passage that constitute a significant part of the social and cultural functioning of the Maasai community and to identify important threats facing the element relating to changes in land tenure systems and climate change;
  3. Notes that this nomination follows one submitted in 2011 and withdrawn by the State Party following the unfavourable opinion of the Consultative Body on criteria U.1, U.3 and U.4;
  4. Commends the State Party for the improvement in the description of the element and for providing a video as evidence of community consent;
  5. Reminds the State Party that inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List does not automatically lead to the granting of financial support from UNESCO;
  6. Encourages the State Party to better involve the community to clearly define appropriate safeguarding measures to be taken and its role in this process, including all segments of the community and particularly different age sets, and to ensure their full participation in the nomination process itself.

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