Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.a.5

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Kenya has nominated Enkipaata, Eunoto and Olng’esherr, three male rites of passage of the Maasai community (No. 01390) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Enkipaata, Eunoto and Olng’esherr are three interrelated male rites of passage of the Maasai community: Enkipaata is the induction of boys leading to initiation; Eunoto is the shaving of the morans paving the way to adulthood; and Olng’esherr is the meat-eating ceremony that marks the end of moranism and the beginning of eldership. The rites of passage are mainly practised by young men of the Maasai community aged between fifteen and thirty, but women also undertake certain tasks. By educating young people about their future role in Maasai society, the rites serve to induct them first to moranhood, then as young elders, and finally as senior elders. Respect and responsibility, safeguarding of the lineage, transfer of powers from one age set to the next and the transmission of indigenous knowledge, such as in relation to livestock rearing, conflict management, legends, traditions and life skills, are some of the core values embedded in those rites of passage. However, while the rites still attract relatively sizeable crowds, the practice appears to be rapidly declining due to the fast emergence of agriculture as a main source of income, reforms of the land tenure system and the impact of climate change that affects the survival of cattle.

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

U.1:   Through the practice, young men acquire the knowledge, skills and social values needed to become respected and responsible members of the community, and to understand and fulfil their role in society. Knowledge concerning Maasai culture is transmitted together with the three rites. Although the element has seen its transmission weakened and the circumstances of its practice changed profoundly due to general changes in society, the practice has maintained its meaning and purpose, while respecting the special categories of bearers and their roles, and its transmission remains integral to the social and cultural integration of individuals into Maasai society.

U.2:   The conditions of the practice have changed significantly, leading to a serious decrease in the number of practitioners and changes to its traditional modes of transmission. Such methods are no longer feasible for practical reasons such as compulsory school education and the recent prevalence of agricultural activities in the local economy. Moreover, changes in the land tenure system and the current sub-division of communal land have reduced the number of places formally used to practise the tradition and preparations for the rituals have partially moved from the community to the family environment. As a result, the practice of the element has been declining since 1980s and is threatened with further deterioration and gradual loss.

U.3:   The safeguarding plan draws on a project co-funded by the government of Kenya, the Maasai community and UNESCO, based on capacity building and training participants from all nine clans in community-based inventorying. Apart from the documentation and dissemination of the knowledge collected and information about the project’s outcomes, the sacred sites where the rituals take place will also be identified and a sustainable protection system established, to ensure the spaces are protected. Educating young people is a vital part of the plan. The safeguarding plan is clearly structured, identifies a budget and the bodies responsible for each activity and counts on full community participation throughout. It would provide trained human resources, who should periodically revisit and update it in the future with a view to enhancing transmission and securing the viability of the element.

U.4:   The file attests to an active dialogue and cooperation among the Maasai community, the Department of Culture, the Cultural Initiative for Biodiversity Conservation, the Maasai Cultural Heritage and other stakeholders throughout the nomination process. Representatives from all nine Maasai clans participated in the preparation of the file and endorsed the nomination; their consent is attached in a written and audio-visual form.

U.5:   The practice is inventoried together with other aspects of Maasai culture, and has been included in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements since 2012. The inclusion in this inventory was carried out with the participation of members of nine Maasai clans. The inventory is updated every two years by the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts in collaboration with the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO.

  1. Inscribes 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. Commends the State Party for the submission of an improved file following the decision of the Committee not to inscribe the element in 2013.