Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.42

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Madagascar has nominated Hiragasy, a performing art of the Central Highlands of Madagascar (No. 01740) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Hiragasy is a performing art composed of song, dance and speech. Originating in the central highlands of Madagascar, the performance takes place in public spaces. It generally involves two troupes and lasts about one hour and thirty minutes, following a standard structure, including drumming, greetings, storytelling, dance and folk songs. The lyrics of hiragasy performances allude to moral, civic and cultural values, and the music is performed using traditional instruments. Hiragasy is present in all Malagasy festive and cultural events. A source of national identity, it is transmitted informally within families, with children following their parents on tour and joining in on the performances. During the royal era, hiragasy was used as a means of communication between rulers and the people to convey a message. With the advent of Christianity, it served as a means of expressing Malagasy faith and culture beyond the temples. Today, it is viewed as a means of conveying morals and cultural values, history and knowledge of Malagasy ancestors. In rural areas, hiragasy is considered as a vital means of educating young people. It maintains social cohesion and promotes peace within the family and among fellow citizens and society.

  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:   Hiragasy is performed in rural Madagascar and is popular with farmers. It includes music and song accompanied by traditional instruments, dancing and oratory. It is performed in public places. The spectators form a circle around two troupes. The performance has about seven distinct sections and conveys moral, civic and cultural values. Hiragasy is transmitted within families. Children follow their parents and learn the lyrics and how to play instruments and to perform the acrobatics and dance steps. Hiragasy is seen as a means of education and of building social cohesion, and is included in many cultural events, instilling a sense of identity, community and pride. It contributes to a harmonized society by calling attention to social issues such as injustice.

R.2:   Inscription would increase awareness about cultural diversity within minority communities in Madagascar, and highlight it in urban areas of the country. It would raise interest among younger generations and a wide range of people from different social backgrounds. At the national level, inscription would draw attention to Madagascar’s other intangible cultural heritage and encourage national safeguarding policies. It would contribute to making culture a source of economic and social development in Madagascar. Inscription would promote increased dialogue between traditional practitioners and younger generations and encourage the sharing of best practices and participation in cultural events. It would also celebrate the diversity of minority cultures.

R.4:   The nomination file describes the participation of the communities, groups and individuals concerned throughout the nomination process. Community participation in the nomination was ensured through awareness-raising about the 2003 Convention via the Ministry of Communication and Culture and its Directorate of Heritage, collecting information via surveys among troupe leaders and individuals, gathering documentation from research centres, troupes and the Analamanga Regional Tourist Office, conducting interviews, organizing meetings to obtain free, prior and informed consent and holding a workshop to approve the nomination file. Various letters of consent from communities are attached to the nomination file.

R.5:   As per Ministerial decree, Hiragasy has been inscribed on the National Register of National Intangible Cultural Heritage since 3 April 2015. The inventory is maintained by the Ministry of Communication and Culture and is updated by identifying and defining elements that are present in Madagascar with the participation of the communities and local authorities. Information is collected from bearers and practitioners, as well as through books and publications. Data related to the element will be constantly updated upon request and with community participation.

  1. Further 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 criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.3:   Past and current safeguarding measures include continued practice, federation efforts, audio and video recordings and research activities on Hiragasy. The proposed safeguarding measures are divided into three categories: (a) transmission; (b) identification and documentation; and (c) promotion and enhancement. Planning of the proposed safeguarding measures was carried out by the Ministry of Communication and Culture and Hiragasy stakeholders. Ideas and proposals emerged through surveys, meetings and documentation activities. The Directorate of Cultural Heritage worked closely with the Federation of Hiragasy Artists, Hiragasy troupes, individuals and the authorities concerned, to identify Hiragasy’s viability, risks and threats and propose measures to mitigate the latter. The communities concerned will play a prominent role in the effective implementation of the safeguarding measures.

  1. Decides to inscribe Hiragasy, a performing art of the Central Highlands of Madagascar on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  2. Commends the State Party on its efforts to safeguard the element in the context of modernization and rural exodus via non-formal modes of transmission, but to pay particular attention to the risk of decontextualisation with the proposed safeguarding measures.