Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 15.COM 8.a.4

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Namibia has nominated Aixan/Gana/Ob#ANS TSI //Khasigu, ancestral musical sound knowledge and skills (no. 01540) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Aixan/Gana/Ob#ANS TSI //Khasigu, ancestral musical sound knowledge and skills relates to the specific traditional music of the Nama people, one of Namibia’s tribal minority groups. It involves the use of traditional musical instruments: the khab (musical bow) and !guitsib (traditional guitar), usually played by men or women, and the vlies (harmonica), usually played by women, accompanied by singing, humming and ululating. Nama ancestral music has a specific sound, texture and rhythm, consisting of a leading melody and rhythm by either a musical bow, accordion or guitar, accompanied by a systematic harmony produced by other instruments. As well as the skill of playing the instruments, the musicians also require the knowledge to tune, maintain and fix the instruments. The music is also complemented by dances commonly referred to as ‘Nama-stap’, meaning the dancing steps of the Nama people. The music provides entertainment during key social occasions but, more importantly, it is also used to educate and instruct members of the community, for instance concerning environmental awareness. In the past, the music connected whole communities and villages, but the art currently faces many threats and in recent years only a few elders have practised the tradition and possessed the related knowledge and skills.

  1. Considers 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:   The traditional music of the Nama people in Namibia comprises multiple domains of intangible cultural heritage. The music and dance celebrate life and symbolize parts of the bearers’ environment. The music is often used as a form of entertainment during communal celebrations, traditional festivals, ritualistic and social events such as weddings, rain-dances, birthdays and girls’ rites of passage. The particular roles of the community members are described. For example, in the dances, men and women move in different ways, representing the community’s values and customs. The element is transmitted to younger generations through non-formal methods, oral transmission from the elders, as well as through observation and mimicking.

U.2:   Aixan/Gana/Ob#ANS TSI //Khasigu, is in need of urgent safeguarding as the tradition of its performance is on the verge of extinction. In the past, the music connected whole communities and villages. However, in recent years only a few elders have possessed the necessary knowledge and skills to play the traditional instruments needed to produce the music. The practitioners of the element are becoming older, and both the frequency and extent of performing the music have drastically declined in recent years. The lack of interest among young people and the low visibility of the element inhibit the community, especially young people, from observing and thereby learning about the ancestral music through the transmission of skills. Accordingly, pre-recorded music is used during festivals. There has been a decline in celebrating many traditional festivities and the music is only performed during shows at cultural festivals.

U.3:   Past and current safeguarding efforts include the formation of cultural groups, and programmes for the promotion and documentation of the element. The objectives include improving the visibility of the element and the transmission of knowledge, enhancing documentation capacities, and strengthening regional cooperation. The activities include: educational and promotional materials, trade fairs, an awareness-raising campaign, training programmes and a capacity-building workshop. For monitoring purposes, field visits will be conducted as well as a mid-term evaluation in cooperation with the communities concerned. The Namibia National Commission for UNESCO has been involved in the implementation and management of funds for programmes related to activities promoting intangible cultural heritage in Namibia. Capacity building will be achieved through community members acquiring skills to help them carry out awareness-raising programmes, providing a strategic framework for further capacity-building activities.

U.4:   Community members were involved in the inventorying, in documenting the element, and in completing the nomination file. The traditional authorities concerned agreed to the nomination of the element to the Urgent Safeguarding List. All stakeholders participated in the process. Moreover, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is a stakeholder and will ensure a gender balance is achieved in all the projects and programmes at the local level. Community members will develop the contents of the educational material through exhibition banners and brochures, and will be part of the group responsible for raising awareness during local exhibitions. Individuals trained in intangible cultural heritage will be involved in the awareness-raising campaign and in identifying the bearers, planning and monitoring the daily activities, and carrying out further documentation activities. The bearers will be the main presenters in the radio programme, will be contracted to conduct music training, and will be responsible for assessing and evaluating the project activities and crafting traditional musical equipment. The consent forms were signed by community chiefs, individual bearers and culture groups in the communities concerned, most of them are female.

U.5:   The element has been included in the Namibian Tentative National Inventory List of ICH since September 2016, administered by the Directorate of National Heritage and Culture Programme, Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, in collaboration with the Namibia National Commission for UNESCO. The State Party initiated and implemented the workshops to equip community representatives with knowledge and skills relating to intangible cultural heritage awareness, as well as the identification, inventorying and documentation of elements of living heritage in their communities. The Directorate of National Heritage and Culture Programme updates the inventory upon receiving new information on specific elements.

  1. Decides to inscribe Aixan/Gana/Ob#ANS TSI //Khasigu, ancestral musical sound knowledge and skills on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Encourages the State Party, when submitting nomination files in the future, to avoid standardized letters of consent;

  3. Reminds the State Party that updating is an important part of the inventorying process and invites it to include detailed information in its next periodic report on the implementation of the Convention at the national level concerning the periodicity of updating of the Namibian Tentative National Inventory List of ICH, in accordance with Article 12.1 of the Convention;

  4. Further takes note that Namibia has requested International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund in the amount of US$99,329 for the implementation of the safeguarding plan for Aixan/Gana/Ob#ANS TSI //Khasigu, ancestral musical sound knowledge and skills (no. 01639):

To be implemented by the Namibia National Commission for UNESCO, this thirty-six-month project is aimed at safeguarding the Aixan /Gana /Ob #ANS TSI //Khasigu, as the tradition of performing such music currently faces many threats. Specifically, the project intends to: improve the visibility of the element and of living heritage in general; enhance, preserve and promote the element among youth, community members and nationwide; increase the transmission of music performance skills among young people through the introduction of a community non-formal teaching programme in the five targeted towns; support traditional craftsmanship by producing traditional musical instruments; enhance national inventorying and documentation capacities among the community; and strengthen sub-regional cooperation in Southern African countries on the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. Among other activities, the project will involve a radio programme and trade fair exhibitions to raise awareness, a four-day training session to equip bearers and officials with further inventorying, documentation and safeguarding skills, and the identification of crafters to train young people in crafting the traditional instruments. The project is expected to enhance the establishment of music groups and regional festivals featuring the music, motivate local higher educational institutions to introduce research departments focusing on living heritage, and encourage local stakeholders to support further such initiatives.

  1. Further considers that, from the information provided in the file, the request responds as follows to the criteria for granting International Assistance given in paragraphs 10 and 12 of the Operational Directives:

Criterion A.1: The community members and individuals concerned were involved in the inventorying and documentation process as well as in the preparation of the request. These same community members are expected to be instrumental in the proposed project. Continual community consultations will be carried out by culture officials and community members trained in intangible cultural heritage. The trained community members will be involved in the awareness-raising campaign and in identifying the bearers. They will also continue attending workshops on community-based inventorying, documentation and safeguarding and will carry out further documentation of the element. Information is provided on the methods to ensure a gender balance throughout all the projects and programmes at the local level.

Criterion A.2: The budget includes a detailed description of the specifically itemized expenses. A detailed explanation and further breakdown are provided for each expense item. Most of the financial assistance requested is intended to cover the campaigns related to awareness-raising, the creation of educational materials and non-formal training activities. Another part of the budget is allocated to monitoring the project and producing reports. The amount requested seems to be appropriate for the proposed activities, reflecting the objectives described.

Criterion A.3: The State Party has proposed a coherent safeguarding plan in relation to the problems detected in the safeguarding of the element. The scope of the corresponding activities is realistic to ensure their realization and follow up. However, it is recommendable to advance the start of the activities focusing on the transmission of the element in the schedule and spread them out over time; transmission through training is indeed as important as awareness-raising campaigns and the production of educational materials, especially since musical training requires practice over time.

Criterion A.4: The project is based on two main safeguarding actions: awareness-raising and training, mainly aimed at attracting young people to the practice and training practitioners at the local level. The overall objective of the project is to safeguard the element to ensure its sustainable development. As this project was devised at the initiative of community members, traditional authorities will be responsible for ensuring its continued sustainability. In conjunction with the State Party, these authorities will continue to support the community members in educational activities aimed at youth. Trained community intangible cultural heritage committees will continue conducting awareness-raising campaigns and further documenting the element, with the assistance of the regional culture officers.

Criterion A.5: According to the budget attached to the request, the State Party will share the cost of the activities for which International Assistance is provided, within the limits of its resources. The Namibian government will be responsible for eight per cent of the total budget.

Criterion A.6: The project is expected to increase opportunities for members of the communities concerned to share their traditional knowledge, experience and ideas on the most sustainable way to safeguard the element. Community members who acquire skills through the training programme will continue to raise awareness of the importance of documenting and safeguarding the element. The educational materials produced – such as mobile exhibition banners – will continue to be displayed at trade fair centers and in schools and institutions of higher learning, to sensitize people and further raise awareness in the communities.

Criterion A.7: Namibia has benefitted from International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund twice, for the preparation of the present nomination to the Urgent Safeguarding List (file no. 01418, 2017-2019, US$10,000) and for the ongoing project entitled ‘Safeguarding of Okuruuo through community-based capacity building, inventorying and documentation interventions in Namibia’ (file no. 01536, 2019-2023, US$100,000). The work stipulated by the contracts related to these projects has so far been carried out in compliance with UNESCO’s regulations.

Paragraph 10(a): The project is national in scope. It will be headed by the Namibia National Commission for UNESCO, founded in 1992, which has the necessary experience and capacity to manage the project. In addition, various internal alliances with ministries and institutions are identified, along with their responsibilities in the project. The National Commission is in a cooperative relationship with various stakeholders, who will be involved in the implementation of the project activities. Their responsibilities in the project are clearly identified.

Paragraph 10(b): The identification of community members and the introduction of music education programmes will enhance the establishment of music groups and increase the demand for regional festivals featuring the music. This trend could motivate local stakeholders to support such initiatives for the purpose of sustainable development. In addition, community groups will generate income through regular music performances. Furthermore, the community awareness-raising programmes and exhibitions will further motivate local higher learning institutions to establish a research department with a special focus on intangible cultural heritage. It is also hoped that awareness-raising campaigns will awaken the interest of other public and private institutions to invest resources in safeguarding the element.

  1. Decides to approve the International Assistance request from Namibia for the implementation of the safeguarding plan for Aixan/Gana/Ob#ANS TSI //Khasigu, ancestral musical sound knowledge and skills and grants the amount of US$99,329 to the State Party to this end;
  2. Further invites the State Party to use Form ICH-04-Report to report on the use of the assistance granted.