Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.B.23

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Nigeria has nominated Argungu international fishing and cultural festival (No. 00901) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Every year in the north-west of Nigeria, communities gather to participate in the Argungu international fishing and cultural festival near the Matan Fada River. The four day festival, which runs between late February and March, features kabanci – a series of water competitions including hand fishing, canoe racing, wild duck catching – as well as other traditional practices, such as the local style of wrestling and boxing. Men and boys participate in the contests, while women provide the encouragement performing songs and dances. The Argungu international fishing and cultural festival, which dates back to before Nigeria’s independence, is considered a contributor to participant sense of identity and is also used as a means of maintaining peace between the Argungu and neighbouring Sokoto community by enjoying shared cultural practices together. Knowledge passed on within participating chieftaincy-holding families by the Sarkin Ruwa (who manages the river’s sanitation levels) and Homa (chief of the Argungu fishermen) concerning the river’s water quality and fish stocks, has been an important factor in the festival’s continuity. Skills involved in festival activities are transmitted to younger generations formally and informally. Training occurs, for example, via apprenticeship particularly in the case of specific fishing techniques or within families by demonstration.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

R.1:   The file presents the element as an important mechanism that gives to the people of the Kabi region a sense of belonging and identity. It strengthens social cohesion among the different groups concerned (including between men and women) while providing them with a sense of continuity. The festival includes several competitive and ritual activities, including bare-hand fishing contests. The bearers and practitioners include fishermen, musicians, and religious functionaries, but more detail would have been useful in this respect. Knowledge associated with the element has been transmitted from generation to generation through oral tradition, apprenticeship, and formal training. The element is compatible with international human rights instruments and is also in conformity with the principles of sustainable development since it serves as a means to regulate fishing activities in the region;

R.2:   The nomination file describes the element as an opportunity for interaction among people who attend and participate, and as a means of enhancing dialogue, while maintaining and relaying rituals and traditions to other generations. Inscription may also foster involvement in diverse cultural activities that require and display human creativity. The file further states that inscription would provide a forum where social problems could be dealt with. Moreover, due to the media focus on Nigeria because of the wave of terrorist attacks (Bokoharam) the inscription will clearly contribute to raising the visibility of the Convention and the importance of intangible cultural heritage in general;

R.3:   The element’s viability has been ensured by communities concerned with the support of the State. However, the file tends to indicate that the participation of these communities is subordinated to the initiatives of political and religious leaders. The proposed safeguarding measures, with State support, include research, documentation and protection of the resources and sacred nature of the river. The viability of the element, besides the necessities of local life, is ensured by intensive state support and vital input of tourism and the political and religious spheres of society as the file says convincingly;

R.4:   The wide and active participation of the communities and groups concerned in the nomination is well explained and the submitting State annexed two consent letters presented by cultural leaders, one of which was from the secretary of the fishermen guild. The local community groups are and have been involved and were also actively participating in all the above listed safeguarding activities. This is documented regularly by the cultural officers of the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation;

R.5:   The element was included in 2007 on the National Inventory on Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage, managed by the Department of Culture in the Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation of Nigeria. The inventory was drawn up by the National Committee on Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage with the participation of communities concerned. The federal department regularly updates the inventory.

  1. Inscribes Argungu international fishing and cultural festival on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.