Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.30

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Ethiopia has nominated Shuwalid festival (No. 01845) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Shuwalid is an annual three-day festival celebrated by the Harari people of Ethiopia. It marks the end of six days of fasting to compensate omissions during Ramadan. The Harari people celebrate Shuwalid at the shrines of Aw Shulum Ahmed and Aw Akebara, found at the main entrance gates of the walled city of Harar. The festival starts with supplications and spiritual songs, followed by the reading of scriptures, music and dance. The celebration is concluded with words of blessing. The occasion unites community members of all ages and genders and serves as a platform for community elders to share their knowledge and experiences and to give blessings to the next generations, as well as for youth to learn about cultural values, norms and traditions. Shuwalid is transmitted within families and by participating in the celebration, as well as through formal educational and safeguarding measures in the sites where the festival takes place. The media and relevant government institutions also support the activities. A platform for the transmission of performing arts, oral traditions, traditional dress and other cultural elements, Shuwalid promotes social cohesion and a sense of identity. It also contributes to cultural exchange and supports the local community and artisans.

  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 Shuwalid Festival is celebrated in a colourful manner that reflects the cultural values and traditions of its bearers and practitioners. There are some specific roles in relation to the performance of the festival and its transmission. Elders and Harari youth also play an important role in the element’s transmission. The festival is transmitted in family and in religious settings, mainly through oral communication. Information about the celebrations is also part of educational curricula and shared via diverse media. The Shuwalid Festival creates opportunities for younger generations to learn about cultural values, norms and traditions and to be aware and proud of their identity.

R.2:   Inscription would increase the communities’ awareness and acceptance of intangible cultural heritage at the local level and contribute to its safeguarding and wider visibility. It would support the transmission of intangible cultural heritage to future generations. Inscription would encourage government bodies and other institutions to allocate funds to promote, enhance and safeguard living heritage at the national level. It would also encourage successive generations of Harari and other groups of people, irrespective of their age, religions, gender and ethnicity, to learn more about and engage with their living heritage. Inscription would draw renewed international attention through scientific research and documentation. It would create a wider forum of dialogue among diverse communities, groups and individuals while strengthening relationships. Furthermore, it would stimulate the constant renewal and enrichment of the knowledge and skills associated with the element in particular and with intangible cultural heritage in general.

R.3:   Past and current safeguarding measures include the element’s continuous practice, promoting the festival, and preparing the nomination file. Proposed safeguarding measures include adding Shuwalid to school curricula, organizing seminars, ensuring media coverage, conducting and making available inventory and research work, and awareness raising and education efforts. State support includes mandating an institution with respective expertise and providing funding. The proposed safeguarding measures were developed as a result of consultations with the community members and practitioners of the element in an interactive public meeting and through consultation sessions.

R.4:   The request to inscribe the Shuwalid Festival comes from the bearers and practitioners of the element in the Harari Regional State. The preparation of the nomination file was coordinated by the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, under the Ministry of Tourism and the Harari Region Culture Heritage and Tourism Bureau. Representative community members, university scholars, cultural and civic associations, bearers and practitioners of the element participated in workshops held in January and February 2020 in Harar City. Free, prior and informed consent to the nomination is provided, mainly in the form of petition signatures.

R.5:   Since June 2020, Shuwalid has been part of the ‘National Register of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Ethiopia’. The responsible body for the inventory is the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage. The Harari communities concerned have participated in the data collection process of the inventory of the Shuwalid festival, via focus group discussions and structured and semi-structured interviews.

  1. Decides to inscribe Shuwalid festival on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the State Party to pay specific attention to the linguistic quality of files to be submitted in the future and to avoid standardized letters of consent.