Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 14.COM 10.B.32

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Seychelles has nominated Moutya (No. 01487) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Moutya was initially a nocturnal dance performed outside around a bonfire. The sole instrument is the moutya drum: a large drum with a narrow rim made of goat’s hide. The dance would begin with heating the drum over a bonfire, as male members of the crowd called out various ‘themes’ – usually social commentaries – to which the female dancers responded. With the beating of the three drums, the men and women would begin to dance, and with the effects of alcohol, both the lyrics and the dance became more heated. The dance would usually continue for the whole night until the early hours. Contemporary Moutya, which has retained some aspects of the original dance, is commonly performed on the beach and even on stage and is not restricted to a nocturnal dance. To this day, the dance remains a social expression where stories and news are shared, although the context of the songs have changed drastically, now being more light-hearted. The lyrics serve as an alternative record to the official accounts of events by colonial masters. There has been a revival of Moutya in recent years, driven by the introduction of the regular Sunday Moutya activity by the Seychelles Musician Association and the annual July Moutya Festival, and Moutya groups and enthusiasts ensure that spontaneous performances remain a common occurrence.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Associated with the Seychellois African slave tradition, Moutya has become a widespread musical and dance style shared by the general population of the archipelago. Its contemporary practice illustrates social change and the overcoming of class and racial barriers. Moutya serves as an important symbol of national identity and as a unifying social factor and is practised spontaneously by individuals as well as in the form of a stage performance. It is also an important tourist attraction, serving as a source of income for many practitioners who are dependent on tourism as the country’s principal economic sector.

R.4:   The bearers and practitioners of the element have been informed about the nomination and the consequences of the possible inscription since 2013. Since then, they have participated in many meetings and workshops about the nomination file, putting forward their concerns and suggestions about the process. Free, prior and informed consent was provided both orally and in writing by artists, men and women, young people, dancers, musicians, knowledge-holders, scholars, instrument-makers, singers and others within the communities concerned.

R.5:   Moutya was included in the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Seychelles in 2010. The National Heritage Research and Protection Section from the Department of Culture, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is the office responsible for maintaining this inventory with the participation of representatives of practitioners, artists, instrument-makers and community organizations.

  1. Further considers that the information included in the file is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are satisfied:

R.2:   There is no evidence of how the inscription of the element would contribute to ensuring the visibility and awareness of the significance of intangible cultural heritage. On the contrary, the nomination file focuses on the visibility of the element itself and, in particular, on the promotion of tourism. Furthermore, the file states that the inscription would foster dialogue and links with other creative industries and create employment opportunities for the performers. Such an approach, which primarily focuses on raising the visibility of intangible cultural heritage through commercial approaches, is not necessarily in line with the purpose of the Convention.

R.3:   The proposed safeguarding measures are very general and do not address the possible negative impacts of the inscription of the element. Though the nomination file clearly states that there is a risk of over-commercialization of the element, there are no proposed safeguarding measures to deal with this threat. On the contrary, the proposed measures could decontextualize the element, inasmuch as the focus is placed on its status as a commodity or tourist attraction. Furthermore, a top-down approach to the design of the safeguarding measures can be seen.

  1. Decides to refer the nomination of Moutya to the submitting State Party and invites it to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;
  2. Further invites the State Party to take particular heed of the impact of increased, undue tourism and over-commercialization on the safeguarding of the element in order to prevent its potential decontextualization and encourages it to remain focused on the cultural and social aspects of the element when planning and implementing the safeguarding measures;
  3. Recalls that the purpose of the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is to ensure better visibility and awareness of intangible cultural heritage in general and not to promote tourism;
  4. Reminds the State Party to avoid top-down approaches in the safeguarding of the element, especially in the definition of safeguarding measures and activities.