Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.15

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Angola has nominated Sona, drawings and geometric figures on sand (No. 01994) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Sona refers to drawings and geometric figures on sand. Practised by the Lunda Cokwe and neighbouring peoples in eastern Angola, it is a form of expression that seeks to convey beliefs, thoughts and emotions, as well as the relationship between human beings and nature. Practitioners mark reference points on a wet floor covered in sand using their index finger and pinkie, then trace lines around these points. The figures and drawings are viewed as a means of transmitting stories, knowledge and collective memory to new generations. It is also practised as a decorative art. Sona is passed on during initiation rites for youth who are preparing to assume social functions. For practitioners, Sona is a means of promoting cultural identity, creating and consolidating collective memory and enhancing a sense of belonging. It is also an opportunity to maintain indigenous knowledge and transmit it to children and youth. In recent decades, educational institutes have started using Sona as a means of teaching and advancing knowledge about mathematics, ethnomathematics and anthropology, among others. The use of Sona by educational institutes and artists has allowed for its reinvention and dissemination, and for the reinforcement of knowledge and skills about Sona drawings from different perspectives.

  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:   The bearers and practitioners are the Lunda Cokwe peoples and the ‘akwa Kuta Sona’, the experts who invented, developed and embody Sona, and are responsible for transmitting the knowledge and skills to younger generations. Other bearers and practitioners of the element are artists who practice Sona as a decorative art, and academics who use Sona in mathematics. The original form of Sona is perceived to be at risk of extinction, but its use by artists and academics has allowed the element to be reinvented, expanded and reinforced. As a means of expressing human relationships, Sona fosters cultural identity and preserves the collective memory of the communities. In academia, it is an education tool with important contributions to mathematics and anthropology.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription would contribute to increased visibility and awareness of the importance of Angolan intangible cultural heritage. It would also increase awareness of intangible cultural heritage in general. At the national level, it would also promote increased awareness of living heritage and of safeguarding measures. At the international level, inscription would highlight and celebrate Angolan cultural identity, reinforcing the importance of ethnomathematics while calling attention to other traditional knowledge and practices that have contributed to human development. Inscription would foster dialogue through university programmes, projects, courses and events, and provide opportunities for exchange between communities and groups in Angola, Africa and the world.

R.3:   Past and current safeguarding measures have been carried out by the Lueji A’Konde University, the National Institute of Cultural Heritage and the Dundo Regional Museum. Activities include classes, lectures, workshops, public service and scientific events. State efforts include declaring Sona as a national cultural heritage and elaborating safeguarding plans to prevent its extinction. The proposed safeguarding measures cover a broad range of activities, from transmitting Sona through master practitioners, to incorporating it in educational curricula, building capacity for the implementation of the 2003 Convention, submitting an International Assistance request to UNESCO, reviewing legislation, enriching museum collections, and organizing conferences and events. The Ministries of Culture and Tourism, of Education and of Territory Administration will contribute to policy formulation, provide human resources and create accommodating infrastructure. Communities of Sona practitioners were involved in the nomination process through field visits, during which they were informed about the ongoing work for inscription of Sona as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity. Working groups were also created to ensure the involvement of traditional leaders in the implementation of safeguarding plans.

R.4:   The communities participated in the nomination process, learning about the community-based inventory approach and attending training programmes on aspects of the 2003 Convention. Community members acted as interpreters, facilitating communication with visitors. They granted interviews, signed consent forms, filled out inventory forms, made bibliographic collections and organized photographs and videos during the fieldwork. The academic community participated via courses, conferences, lectures, seminars, workshops, debates and excursions. In addition to the practitioners, communities, individuals, academics and institutions concerned, the nomination included the active participation of the King of Lunda Cokwe, Mwatchissengue Wa-Tembo. They all provided relevant information and materials and discussed issues related to the Sona. Free, prior and collective informed consents were provided by a wide range of community members of all genders. Although there are certain restrictions to accessing the element in the most advanced stages of the initiation rites, Sona is accessible to the public through demonstrations and competitions.

R.5:   The element has been included in the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory since 2021. The National Institute for Cultural Heritage is responsible for the inventory. The National Institute of Cultural Heritage and the Pedagogical School of Lunda-Norte were instructive in identifying and defining the element, via bibliographic consultation and contacts with local communities, practitioners, groups and interested individuals, including academics, scientific researchers and leaders. The inventory is updated monthly, and new elements are added regularly.

  1. Decides to inscribe Sona, drawings and geometric figures on sand on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party on its first inscription;
  3. Reminds the State Party to ensure that the communities concerned are at the centre of all safeguarding efforts;
  4. Encourages the State Party, when submitting nomination files in the future, to highlight gender-specific roles, means of transmission and social functions concerning the nominated element.