Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 14.COM 10.A.3

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Mauritius has nominated Sega tambour Chagos (No. 01490) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Sega tambour Chagos is one of the types of Sega music of Mauritius, with origins in the Chagos Archipelago. Like other Sega music, it is born from slavery and sung in Chagossian Creole particular to the islands. Sega tambour Chagos is a gentle, vibrant and rhythmic performance of music, song and dance based on the ‘tambour’ – a large, circular instrument that is heated and then played to produce throbbing beats – which provides the basic rhythm. The lyrics consist of everyday experiences, often composed spontaneously, including narrations of sadness, happiness and rebellion. Sega tambour Chagos is also accompanied by traditional food and drink. Nowadays, new lyrics have been created associated with the nostalgic past and motherland, rooted in an experience of dislocation to ensure young people do not lose their roots and pride. However, despite efforts to safeguard the element, there are numerous threats to its viability. For example, while elder generations continue to perform the element in its traditional form, young people are moving towards other forms of music. One major threat is the passing away of elders familiar with the landscape associated with the practice. Equally, with their displacement to a new land, people have faced challenges such as poverty and a lack of community cohesiveness, leading to some loss of memory and interest in the practice.

  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:   Sega tambour Chagos plays a crucial role in the lives of Chagossians as a source of social and group cohesion, identity retention, self-confidence and pride. It also provides a sense of social solidarity, unity, shared ancestry and is associated with an imagined homeland for an increasing diaspora. The practice is a powerful form of memorization that serves as a marker of national, community and group unity. Moreover, it represents a channel of communication within communities, including between island communities, contributing to identity and continuity, and constituting a means of expression for all Chagossians. It is a creative, imaginative, vibrant and engaging music and performance that emanates from the community’s experiences and ways of life.

U.2:   As a result of the forced and increasing displacement of Chagossians from their islands of origin, there have been numerous challenges to the viability of the element. Beyond their familiar landscape, the people have faced poverty, marginalization and a lack of cohesiveness of their community. This has caused an alienation from the practice – especially among younger generations who were born in displacement with little knowledge of their original homeland – as well as a misappropriation of the creativity of the lyrics by non-Chagossians. Most of the bearers who are competent in the performance and understand its values and meanings – including its original social and geographical context – are older and physically challenged, making its transmission from one generation to the next even more difficult. Currently, it appears only to be performed during events like the Festival International Kreol and Chagos Day and only one group consistently performs it on the island.

U.4:   The community, bearers, non-governmental organizations and researchers participated in the nomination process. The process began in 2010 during the inclusion of the element on the national inventory, and continued in 2015 with a major reflection on the state of safeguarding of Sega tambour Chagos. In 2017, many workshops were held with the community and it was agreed that the element could be considered for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding as the community had consistently raised its concerns about the state of the element.

U.5:   Sega tambour Chagos was included in the National Inventory of the Republic of Mauritius in 2012, after a two-year process in which representatives of different genders and age groups fully participated. The national inventory is regularly updated, whenever necessary and at least once a year. The most recent update for Sega tambour Chagos was in January 2018.

  1. Further considers that based on the information provided by the State Party to the Committee at its present session concerning the safeguarding plan, the following criterion for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is satisfied:

U.3:   Initially, the State Party has laid focus on the promotion of the element, particularly through performances, as the element is performed only by the Chagossian community. Nevertheless, the State Party aimed at achieving, inter alia, the following objectives in the safeguarding plan in order to ensure its viability: the creation of more Chagossian groups to perform the Sega Tambour Chagos; more members of the Chagossian community to join the existing group; other individuals and groups to practice the element, once the element is safeguarded among the Chagossian community; the Chagossian community to bring forward the element for a better visibility at national and international levels; and the elderly to be empowered to transmit the element to the younger generations for posterity. Despite the great challenges that have been identified the Chagossian families have so far ensured transmission of their skills, knowledge and practice to their children. The Chagossian community was not only the initiator of the nomination process but it was actively involved in the preparation of the file and is clearly committed to implement the safeguarding measures.

  1. Decides to inscribe the Sega tambour Chagos on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Requests the State Party to submit, for the next four years after inscription, biennial reports on the results of the measures taken to ensure the safeguarding of the element and invites the State Party to ensure that the participation of the community is highlighted and clearly described in the biennial reports.