Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 16.COM 8.B.36

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Senegal has nominated Ceebu Jën, a culinary art of Senegal (no. 01748) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Ceebu jën is a dish that originated in the fishing communities on the Island of Saint-Louis in Senegal. Although recipes vary from one region to the next, the dish is typically made with fish steak, broken rice, dried fish, mollusc and seasonal vegetables such as onions, parsley, garlic, chilli pepper, tomatoes, carrots, eggplant, white cabbage, cassava, sweet potato, okra and bay leaf. The quality of the fish and the choice of vegetables are determined by the importance of the event or the degree of affection one has for the guest. The recipe and techniques are traditionally passed down from mother to daughter. In most families, ceebu jën is eaten with the hands, although spoons or forks are usually used in restaurants. The dish is also tied to specific cultural practices. For instance, it is forbidden to sit with a raised knee, the bowl must be held with the left hand, and grains of rice must not be dropped when eating. The ceebu jën dish and associated practices are viewed as an affirmation of Senegalese identity.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, and the information provided by the submitting State through the dialogue process, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1: The element consists of the preparation and ceremony associated with Senegal’s national dish. Its bearers and practitioners are primarily women, although nowadays the element includes more men. The associated knowledge and skills are passed down orally from parents to children, with responsibilities in the preparation of the meal increasing with age. By the ages 15 to 17, adolescent girls are able to master the dish. The element encapsulates the art of living and is a powerful affirmation of belonging within the community. It reinforces social inclusion, including of children, who learn through direct transmission. Connected to the element are issues of sustainable development as Senegal will soon achieve self-sufficiency in the production of rice and is furthermore working to better protect the use and exploitation of fishing resources.

R.2: Inscription of the element would contribute to increased visibility and awareness of traditional culinary arts. Given the association of the element with the Saint Louis World Heritage Site, inscription would give visibility to the links between tangible and intangible heritage at the local level. Inscription will highlight traditional agrarian rites, techniques in rice-growing and fishing areas, as well as songs and ceremonies. Similarly, inscription of an element related to gastronomy will highlight the diversity of intangible cultural heritage and its role in improving educational and health systems. The historical origins of the two main food ingredients would highlight the international nature of food, as well as promote dialogue within the country. The element furthermore demonstrates human creativity in the associated historical narrative.

R.3: The element remains viable through the efforts of families, women’s groups and hospitality schools. The State has undertaken measures to safeguard intangible cultural heritage in general and has made provisions for rice self-sufficiency and for the protection of fish farming. Most of the proposed measures are aimed at legal, sustainable development and promotional efforts, with some links to tourism. Other proposed measures include education and research initiatives. The communities, groups and individuals concerned were involved in the development of the proposed measures.

R.4: The file explains the involvement of communities, including fishing communities and their representatives, non-governmental organizations and institutions, in various stages of the nomination process – from identification to data collection, documentation and discussion of safeguarding measures. There is a mix of generic and individualized expressions of consent, from local administrations, community groups, research centers and representatives from local village communities.

R.5: The element was listed on the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2019. The inventory is administered by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the Saint Louis Regional Cultural Centre and Gaston Berger University. The National Commission for Intangible Cultural Heritage, comprised of non-governmental organizations, academics and practitioners, is responsible for adding or removing elements from the inventory as well as for updating the inventory every two years.

  1. Decides to inscribe Ceebu Jën, a culinary art of Senegal on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the State Party about the need to ensure that the social and cultural meanings of the element are safeguarded, and that measures be taken to address any unintended risks related to tourism and over-commercialization;
  3. Recalls the importance of using vocabulary appropriate to the spirit of the Convention and of avoiding expressions which may suggest claims of ownership.