Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 13.COM 10.b.23

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Malawi has nominated Mwinoghe, joyous dance (No. 01293) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Mwinoghe is an instrumental dance performed among three ethnic communities – Sukwa, Ndali and Bandya – in the northern region of Malawi. In the Chisukwa dialect, the word ‘Mwinoghe’ literally means ‘Let us enjoy ourselves’: the dance is therefore performed to express joy and happiness. Derived from a ceremonial dance of the neighbouring Karonga district, called Indingala, Mwinoghe is a relatively recent dance. Dancers line up in two rows, with men on one side and women on the other, and perform twisting body and elaborate foot movements. There is no singing; the only sound comes from the three drums, the whistle, and the group leader’s commands. Mwinoghe is performed at social gatherings for entertainment purposes, including on days of national significance. People from all walks of life gather to watch the dance, which serves a unifying function among different communities. Other traditional dances are also organized on such occasions, enabling people to celebrate their different cultures together. Related skills and knowledge are mainly transmitted through observation and participation by young people during performances, but the practice is also integrated into primary, secondary and tertiary-level curricula. Mwinoghe features heavily in annual independence celebrations and individual communities have also created dance groups that perform at annual festivals and on other occasions.

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

R.1:   Mwinoghe represents a cultural element deriving from an older ceremonial dance that has assumed new functions in modern society. The entertainment function, to express joy and happiness, is the most significant feature of the practice. The Mwinoghe performance always draws great interest from the audience. Membership in a dance group strengthens bonds among community members as practitioners help and support each other in difficult life situations. At the level of inter-tribal and inter-community relations, Mwinoghe fosters dialogue and helps people understand their own cultural identity. It also strengthens cooperation among different communities.

R.2:   The file explains how the inscription could help reinforce self-confidence, self-respect and pride in the tribal communities involved in the practice and encourage stronger relations with other communities in the country that already have elements inscribed on the Representative List. It further states that the inscription would contribute to raising the visibility of intangible cultural heritage not only in Malawi but in the entire Southern African region. By disseminating messages on topical issues and addressing the social needs of the different communities concerned, Mwinoghe dance promotes dialogue between groups of practitioners and testifies to their creativity and cultural diversity.

R.3:   The proposed safeguarding plan draws on past safeguarding measures and adequately reflects the situation of the element. The intergenerational transmission of the dance skills required has been supported by formal education guaranteed by the government. The government also strives to create a favourable legal framework to facilitate the communities’ safeguarding efforts. The safeguarding measures were prepared with the participation of the practitioners led by community-based youth trained in inventorying intangible cultural heritage.

R.4:   The community were involved during several phases. Apart from the collection of general information concerning the element during the inventorying process, several meetings with traditional community leaders and practitioners were organized to explain the principles of the Convention, gather information about the element and discuss safeguarding measures. Free, prior and informed consent was granted by traditional community leaders on behalf of all three ethnic groups concerned.

R.5:   The element was identified during a project co-funded by UNESCO aimed at community-based inventorying and Mwinoghe was duly included in the Inventory of Malawi´s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2013. The inventorying process is described in detail, especially as far as the participation of community members is concerned.

  1. Inscribes Mwinoghe, joyous dance on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.