Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.b.21

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Mauritius has nominated Bhojpuri folk songs in Mauritius, Geet-Gawai (No. 01178) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

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, of Indian descent. The traditional practice takes place at the home of the bride or groom and involves female family members and neighbours. It begins with five married women sorting items (turmeric, rice, grass and money) in a piece of cloth while other participants sing songs that honour Hindu gods and goddesses. After the site has been sanctified, the mother of the bride or groom and a drummer honour musical instruments to be played during the ceremony, such as the dholak (a two-headed drum). Uplifting songs are then performed and everyone joins in and dances. Geet-Gawai is an expression of community identity and collective cultural memory. The practice also provides participants with a sense of pride and contributes to greater social cohesion, breaking class and caste barriers. Knowledge about the practice and its associated skills are transmitted from older to younger generations on an informal and formal basis. This takes place via observation and participation by families, semi‑formal teaching houses, community centres, and academies. Nowadays, the practice of Geet-Gawai extends to public performances and men also participate.

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

R.1:   The practice of Geet-Gawai, through its participatory performance, is shown to contribute to social cohesion, breaking free of class and caste barriers, and to have become an expression of collective, cultural memory, whilst strengthening a common identity. The wedding ceremony symbolizes the sustainability of individuals and community, while the public performances reinforce relations between groups. The file offers a clear description of the element’s bearers and practitioners, whose knowledge and skills are transmitted to new generations through informal and formal means;

R.2:   The file indicates that inscription of the element would contribute to enhancing the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general and to promoting awareness of the importance of oral traditions and relevant social practices as part of the cultural identity of communities. Geet-Gawai originates in immigrant experiences against the background of a history of indentured labour: inscription would foster cohesive multicultural communities while promoting respect for cultural diversity. Geet-Gawai is also a dynamic performing art, experimenting with new techniques and creating new lyrics: its inscription would also contribute to an enhanced appreciation for human creativity;

R.3:   Current and future efforts to safeguard and promote the performance of Geet-Gawai are elaborated in detail. The groups concerned have to date documented, researched and updated the element to ensure its viability, with State support. The file demonstrates that local groups and stakeholders will continue their work to document and spread knowledge on the element. Threats that may occur as unintended results of inscription are recognized. The submitting State intends to contribute to safeguarding by funding national festivities and through documentation and inventorying projects;

R.4:   The community concerned participated in the preparation of the nomination through workshops and individual consultations between 2010 and 2015. Consent is shown through varied (written and oral) evidence, of a non-standardized nature. Access to the knowledge and practice of Geet-Gawai is open (with the exception of the pre-wedding event);

R.5:   The element was first included in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Mauritius in 2011 and updated in 2012, 2014 and 2015. The file indicates that the inventory was carried out with the participation of practitioners, bearers and community representatives. The inventory is maintained by the National Heritage Fund/Ministry of Arts and Culture.

  1. Inscribes Bhojpuri folk songs in Mauritius, Geet-Gawai on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Encourages the submitting State when promoting the element at the international level, to provide a translation of lyrics of the songs, particularly for the video, into widely-spoken languages.