- Takes note that Samoa has nominated ‘Ie Samoa, fine mat and its cultural value (No. 01499) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
The ‘Ie Samoa is a special finely hand-woven mat fastened at the hem with two rows of green and red feathers, and a loose fringe on one end. Traditionally woven with fine strippings of the pandanus plant, the final product is silk-like. Its shiny coppery colour adds to its value as it is a testament to its age and the natural bleaching process it undergoes. The production process involves a high level of intricacy as each woven strand is as little as one millimeter wide. Producing a single ‘Ie Samoa can therefore take up to several months and even years. Nevertheless, the ‘Ie Samoa is more than a cultural product involving exceptional skill; its true value lies in its use as an object of exchange in traditional ceremonies and rituals that reaffirm kinship ties and strengthen community wellbeing. The ‘Ie Samoa is displayed and exchanged at festive celebrations or on important gatherings such as weddings and funerals, and its exchange contributes profoundly to the maintenance of the social structure. Today, an increasing number of young female weavers are involved, and even male weavers. Women and master weavers have established fine mat committees within their villages, allowing them to exchange ideas about best practice for weaving, and to boost opportunities for strengthening the transmission of the art form.
- Considers 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: The ‘Ie Samoa is a unifying element of cultural heritage among Samoan people that conveys messages of respect, peace, recognition, honour and unity. The population of the country recognizes the ‘Ie Samoa as part of its cultural heritage and the element is inclusive of all community members from the time of its production to the time of its ceremonial exchange. The knowledge and skills associated with weaving the fine mat and its ceremonial exchange are transmitted through observation and practice. The exchange of ‘Ie Samoa demonstrates people’s respect for and appreciation of each other, leading to peaceful coexistence.
R.2: The inscription of ‘Ie Samoa, fine mat and its cultural value would contribute to promoting the visibility of elements of intangible cultural heritage that are based on local knowledge and practice. It would also raise awareness at the global level of the role of women in the practice, transmission and safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. Furthermore, the inscription would enable Samoans to strengthen their interactions with each other, encouraging dialogue and unity through the recognition and respect of their intangible cultural heritage.
R.4: The initiative to nominate the element for inscription on the Representative List came from the weavers of the traditional art form and other community members through public consultations. The women weavers and their village weaving community representatives provided their free, prior and informed consent through signed consent forms to allow ‘le Samoa to be nominated for possible inscription on the Representative List. This followed a nationally held consultation conducted by the Ministry of Education, Sports, and Culture and UNESCO representatives.
R.5: The ‘Ie Samoa was included in the Database for Intangible Cultural Heritage in Samoa in 2018. The Ministry of Education, Sports, and Culture is the body responsible for maintaining and updating the inventory, in cooperation with the communities concerned and other relevant stakeholders. The ‘Ie Samoa was identified and defined by the communities themselves and chosen as the first element to be included in an inventory because of its longstanding viability and unwavering importance for the Samoan community.
- Further considers that the information included in the file was not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is satisfied:
R.3: The proposed safeguarding measures include the promotion, exhibition and support of the weavers with their products. However, the information about the communities’ participation in the planning of the safeguarding measures is not clear. Furthermore, the focus appears to be on the commercial value of the element rather than on safeguarding its social functions and cultural meanings.
- Further takes note that, having considered that the information included in the file was not sufficient to determine whether criterion R.3 is satisfied and that a short question and answer process with the submitting State might clarify whether the nomination meets the criterion concerned, the Evaluation Body decided, pursuant to Decision 13.COM 10, to initiate a ‘dialogue’ process in order to obtain information on the following question:
How did the communities participate in planning the proposed safeguarding measures?
- Also takes note of the information provided thereon by the submitting State as well as the subsequent opinion of the Evaluation Body, as documented in LHE/19/14.COM/INF.10, which considers that the answer provided adequately addresses the question (under paragraph 4);
- Considers that, on the basis of the information included in the file and the information provided by the submitting State through the ‘dialogue’ process as well as the subsequent opinion of the Evaluation Body, criterion R.3 is satisfied;
- Decides to inscribe ‘Ie Samoa, fine mat and its cultural value on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
- Commends the State Party for its first inscription;
- Encourages the State Party to take particular heed of the impact of over-commercialization on the safeguarding of the element in order to prevent its potential decontextualization;
- Reminds the State Party to avoid top-down approaches in all stages of the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage by ensuring that communities are at the centre of all safeguarding efforts;
- Further encourages the State Party, when submitting nomination files in the future, to avoid standardized consent letters;
- Invitesthe State Party to include detailed information in its next periodic report on the implementation of the Convention at the national level on how the Database for Intangible Cultural Heritage in Samoa was drawn up with the active participation of the communities, groups and non-governmental organizations concerned, in accordance with Article 11(b) of the Convention.