Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.45

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Morocco has nominated Malhun, a popular poetic and musical art (No. 01592) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Malhun is a popular form of poetic expression in Morocco. The verses are sung in dialectical Arabic and sometimes Hebrew. They are accompanied by music played on traditional instruments, notably the lute, the violin, the rebab and small drums. Popular topics include love, the joys of life, the beauty of people, nature, religious prayer and pleas, pleasure and merrymaking, gastronomy, imaginary journeys, political events and social issues. The poems also convey moral messages and encourage constructive discourse. By combining song, theatrics, metaphor and symbolism in accessible language and a festive atmosphere, malhun unites all Moroccans, regardless of religion. In the past, the practice was transmitted informally, through apprenticeships with vocalists, musicians, transcribers, lyricists and the craftspeople who make the traditional instruments and costumes. Today, it is also transmitted through organizations and music conservatories, as well as through publications containing traditional texts. Enjoyed and performed by people of all genders, malhun has had a considerable impact on Moroccan culture and collective memory for centuries. It is performed in many spaces, from family gatherings to large performance halls and malhun festivals. As a collective art form, it promotes social cohesion and creativity while serving as a historical record of social issues throughout the centuries.

  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:   Malhun is a poetic expression that is sung and which touches on all areas of life. The music is performed on traditional instruments. Bearers and practitioners include poets, scholars and troupes of musicians. Apprenticeships with master craftspersons have been of great importance in relation to its informal transmission process, and today both formal and informal transmission takes place through associations of troupes and in music conservatories. The poems embody a collective memory that recalls social issues throughout the centuries. They often convey moral messages and educational and constructive discourse. Malhun promotes social cohesion and plays a part in everyday social and cultural life, as a part of gatherings, artistic events and festivals.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription would affirm cultural identity and increase the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general. At the national level, there would be wider visibility for other performing arts, while reinforcing general awareness of intangible cultural heritage in all communities. At the international level, inscription would encourage dialogue and exchange between communities around the world, especially those sharing similar poetic and musical means of expression. Creativity and respect for cultural diversity, which is inherent in the element, would also be reinforced.

R.3:   The viability of the element has been perpetuated by craftspeople and other practitioners through their active practice and through associations of troupes. State efforts to safeguard Malhun include publishing ‘The Encyclopedia of Malhun’, national television and radio programmes, and funding Malhun festivals with the help of public institutions and local and regional territorial entities. A series of safeguarding measures are proposed, including promotion through festivals, subsidies, issuing artist cards, and publishing new volumes of the encyclopedia. The State Party will support the implementation of the measures as part of its efforts to promote the arts. At meetings jointly organized by the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Ministry of Culture to prepare the nomination, practitioners, artists, poets, researchers, musicians and singers took part in discussions and debates on how to safeguard the element. The same community representatives also expressed their willingness to work with these public institutions to ensure the safeguarding of Malhun.

R.4:   The file outlines a process initiated by the Driss Belmamoun Association in 2016 and later undertaken by the Academy in partnership with the Ministry of Culture between 2017 and 2018. The file describes various meetings involving communities, groups and individuals and their participation in the drafting of the nomination. Regional meetings were organized to involve all those concerned with the element and ensure better involvement of community representatives. Participants fully expressed their free and informed consent to this nomination and their availability and willingness to contribute to the safeguarding of the element. A video of consent was presented as part of the nomination file, with statements from poets, singers, leaders of various troupes and university researchers.

R.5:   ‘Malhun: a popular poetic and musical art’ has been included in the Inventory and Documentation of Moroccan Cultural Heritage since October 2018. The inventory is overseen by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Section of the Directorate for Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture. Its inventorying is based on field missions, consultation meetings and interviews by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage. Although the file does not mention the frequency of updating of the inventory, it explains that the inventory is occasionally updated, namely whenever an element relating to Malhun is declared and authenticated by specialists.

  1. Decides to inscribe Malhun, a popular poetic and musical art on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.