- Takes note that Kenya has nominated Rituals and practices associated with Kit Mikayi shrine (No. 01489) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:
The rituals and practices associated with Kit Mikayi shrine concern the Luos of western Kenya. Legend has it that Kit Mikayi Shrine is associated with the good fortunes of the Seme people and other Luo ethnic communities who live around the shrine enclave. People access the shrine for many different reasons, including praying, taking oaths, undertaking rituals and associated practices, and enjoying its natural beauty. During times of catastrophe like hunger and famine, Luo elders would conduct rituals at the shrine and rain and bounty harvests would follow. Elderly men and women of excellent social standing would guide the rituals; while men would partake in activities such as slaughtering the animals, women did the singing, dancing and cooking of the foods accompanying the rituals. For generations, the community has relied on the shrine as a sacred site, where they could visit and commune with the Deity. However, the element is now threatened by various factors, including the decreased frequency of its enactment, ageing bearers and practitioners, and encroachment upon the surrounding cultural spaces. The fact that the last major rituals and practices at the shrine date back to 1987 illustrates the risk of their disappearance, with a lack of knowledge triggering a movement towards the devaluation and defilement of the shrine as a sacred space for the community.
- 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 Kit Mikayi Shrine is a place of worship and performing rituals, seen as a centre of soul-searching and meditation for various churches. The rituals and practices are transmitted non-formally through apprenticeship, observation and active participation by young people. The file includes a clear explanation about the links between intangible and tangible heritage, showing how the relation between the practice and the sacred site has greatly promoted the conservation of the environment.
U.2: Several specific threats affect the viability of the rituals and practices associated with Kit Mikayi Shrine: the decreased frequency of the performance of the practice, connected with the ageing and diminishing number of bearers and practitioners with a complex knowledge of the element, weakened oral transmission and the decreasing cohesion of the community, as well as general lifestyle changes among young people, resulting in a growing lack of interest among them. Of special significance is the encroachment upon the cultural spaces and loss of traditional healing knowledge, mostly due to changes caused by deforestation.
U.4: The communities, groups and individuals concerned have actively participated throughout all stages of the nomination process since it began in 2011. The bearers, practitioners and representatives of the Seme community strive to safeguard the practice and will be the main driving force behind the safeguarding process, with the full support of the government and state institutions. Moreover, information about some specific sections of the shrine, the performance of rituals in these places and certain specific recipes is mostly kept in secret by designated bearers and family members of practitioners from the Seme community. These aspects of the element will continue to be respected and transmitted in the traditional ways.
U.5: Since 2012, the rituals and practices associated with Kit Mikayi shrine have been included in Kenya’s national inventory for intangible cultural heritage through a well-described participatory process. The inventory is administered by the Department of Culture in the Ministry of Sports and Heritage and the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO. These institutions regularly update the inventory, in collaboration with the communities concerned and other relevant stakeholders.
- 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 List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is satisfied:
U.3: The safeguarding plan includes nine activities corresponding to four objectives, giving continuity to the past and current measures to safeguard the element. These measures, which correspond to specific threats, are supported by the local government and are to be implemented with the participation of the local community. However, a timetable of activities is lacking. Without the inclusion of such a timetable for the proposed activities, it is not possible to fully assess the safeguarding plan.
- Further takes note that, having considered that the information included in the file was not sufficient to determine whether criterion U.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:
The safeguarding plan required under Section 3.b (Safeguarding plan proposed) is lacking a timetable for the proposed activities. Can you please provide it?
- 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 U.3 is satisfied;
- Decides to inscribe Rituals and practices associated with Kit Mikayi shrine on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
- Reminds the State Party to take particular heed of the impact of tourism on the safeguarding of the element in order to prevent its decontextualization and encourages it to monitor the impacts of the increased visibility of the element as well as to mitigate any adverse impacts relating to tourism.