- Takes note that Zimbabwe has nominated Ingubhamazwi, tanning and dyeing of the multi-coloured poncho of the Nyubi people of southern Zimbabwe for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:
The practise of tanning and dyeing Ingubhamazwi multi-coloured ponchos is found among the Nyubi people of Southern Zimbabwe. The ponchos are traditionally much-prized as gifts by husbands to their wives, and signify an expression of beauty, status and love. The knowledge and skills involved in making Ingubhamazwi are transmitted orally. These include the ability to make attractive artistic designs and knowledge of natural dyestuffs, derived from indigenous trees. The main material is animal skin, which is tanned and turned into a hide or soft leather, to which the colouring, decorations and designs are then applied. The time taken to make the poncho varies, depending on such factors as the weather and the accessibility of material. At present, the making of Ingubhamazwi is diminishing due to the decreasing number of craftspeople having the requisite knowledge. Only three older men possess the complete set of skills and knowledge to produce the garment, and the younger generation is little interested in learning them. The domestic livestock that provide a major raw material are also becoming more expensive, and the trees that supply the dyes are few, due to increasing deforestation.
- Decides that, from the information provided in nomination file 00653, Ingubhamazwi, tanning and dyeing of the multi-coloured poncho of the Nyubi people of southern Zimbabwe satisfies the criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, as follows:
U.1: Although the social function of the multi-coloured poncho has changed, its making and use remain an identity marker of the Nyubi community, the last group that retains the viability of a practice that was once shared with other Ndebele-speaking communities;
- Further decides that, from the information provided in nomination file 00653, Ingubhamazwi, tanning and dyeing of the multi-coloured poncho of the Nyubi people of southern Zimbabwe does not satisfy the criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, as follows:
U.2: The threats described, including poverty, food scarcity, diminishing natural resources, economic uncertainty, reduced occasions for wearing the ponchos and disinterest among the young in making them, are general issues of many countries and not specific to the multi-coloured poncho;
U.3: The safeguarding measures are not well elaborated and do not seem to respond to the threats identified; most remain at the level of possibility rather than concrete action and no evidence has been provided of a commitment from the State Party to their implementation;
U.4: Although the nomination process began from a suggestion of the last surviving bearers, and consent of the chief and several elders to conduct research on the ponchos is provided, it does not appear that there was broad participation of the community in the elaboration of the nomination and neither was there a clear commitment to the element’s safeguarding;
U.5: Efforts appear to be underway by the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture to draw up an inventory of the intangible cultural heritage in Zimbabwe; however, those efforts have not yet borne fruit; moreover, the nomination does not describe how communities will be involved in such inventorying;
- Decides not to inscribe Ingubhamazwi, tanning and dyeing of the multi-coloured poncho of the Nyubi people of southern Zimbabwe on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding at this time and invites the State Party to submit a revised nomination that responds more fully to the criteria, for examination by the Committee in a subsequent cycle;
- Notes with concern that the viability of the practice is threatened by the transformations of Ndebele life, in which the poncho has lost much of its function and meaning, and this is aggravated by the difficult socio-economic situation in which the Nyubi community finds itself;
- Further notes that the State Party is a beneficiary of a capacity-building programme, undertaken by UNESCO with the assistance of the UNESCO/Flanders Funds-in-Trust, which aims at strengthening the implementation of the Convention at the national level;
- Encourages the State Party and local communities to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by that capacity-building programme and to work closely together to devise effective safeguarding strategies for the multi-coloured poncho and other elements of intangible cultural heritage;
- Further encourages the State Party to ensure that such safeguarding measures, particularly those aimed at revitalizing and marketing the production of the poncho, neither freeze the practice nor focus exclusively on the techniques of its making and lose sight of its social functions and cultural meanings.