Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 10.COM 10.b.2

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Algeria has nominated Sbuâ, annual pilgrimage to the zawiya of Sidi El Hadj Belkacem in Gourara (No. 00667) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Each year, pilgrims from Zenata communities in the south-west Algerian Sahara visit mausoleums of saints to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. Sbuâ is a pilgrimage, which runs for a week and entails cultural practices that focus on group activities, which include celebrations with singing and dancing. On the seventh day, pilgrims conclude the journey in a square outside a zawiya (community institution) in the centre of Gourara, which houses the mausoleum of Sidi El Hadj Belkacem. Different groups of pilgrims symbolically merge around a bearer carrying the standard of a saint before returning to their respective groups to continue the ritual, which is governed by the oldest pilgrims. Women participate by ululating and presiding over the ‘millstone’ ritual a week before the ceremony, during which they grind the first handful of cereal used to make couscous for the pilgrims. Tradition bearers can trace their lineage back to the saints and describe themselves as descendants. Children and youth are involved formally in various aspects (acts, prayers and chants), gradually becoming knowledge bearers themselves. Sbuâ is considered by the communities, given the body of beliefs and rites enacted as part of the pilgrimage, to be an expression of their history and the links that bind them.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

R.1:   The knowledge and practices of Sbuâ are transmitted from generation to generation primarily through the act of participation itself; the element reasserts religious, social and cultural ties among communities that may otherwise be adversaries, providing them with a shared sense of identity and continuity;

R.2:   Inscription of the element could increase awareness concerning the capacity of intangible cultural heritage to contribute to a culture of peace and reconciliation through symbolic acts and festive spirit; it could also contribute to the visibility of other elements in the region and encourage their safeguarding, in particular given that the enactment of Sbuâ incorporates various domains of intangible cultural heritage;

R.3:   Although the proposed safeguarding measures rely strongly on past and current efforts, they nevertheless address possible unintended consequences of inscription, and demonstrate active participation of communities concerned in their planning and implementation, as well as the coordination and support provided by governmental bodies;

R.4:   In addition to taking part in research on the element, members of village communities of Gourara and custodians of the mausoleums were involved in the entire process of nomination, from the selection of the element to the final verification of the file, and provided their free, prior and informed consent to it;

R.5:   Since 2005, Gourara Sbuâ has been included in the National Database of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is maintained and periodically updated by the National Centre for Prehistoric, Anthropological and Historical Research.

  1. Inscribes Sbuâ, annual pilgrimage to the zawiya of Sidi El Hadj Belkacem in Gourara on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Encourages the State Party to pay particular attention to ensuring that safeguarding measures respond adequately to the social dynamics on the ground and the increased visibility and public attention that will follow the inscription on the Representative List.