Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.7

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Sudan has nominated Procession and celebrations of Prophet Mohammed’s birthday in Sudan (No. 01896) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Al-Molid procession is a celebration of the Prophet Mohammed that takes place in Sudan. The celebration starts twelve days before the Prophet’s birthday, in the third month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It begins with a procession of thousands of men, women and children, community leaders, government officials, army and police forces and music corps. During the parade, participants perform religious and mystical songs and ritual dances and recite Sufi prayers. The celebration culminates in al-Molid square, a large open-air space decorated with lights and flags and covered in prayer rugs. Upon arrival, the crowd hangs a flag by a very tall pole. The celebrations are then launched by an official speech. Participants enjoy the performances and traditional food and buy their children candies and toys. Al-Molid and the related practices, knowledge and skills are transferred within families and dance circles, through participation in the events, and through modern education and mass media. The event is an opportunity for different Sufi orders to express their solidarity. However, it is celebrated by the entire country, thus uniting people from different religions. The square itself serves as a meeting spot for people to chat, celebrate, entertain and enjoy cuisine from different parts of Sudan.

  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:   Different segments of society participate in the celebration of the Prophet’s birthday, including people of all ages and genders. The file highlights various roles in the element, such as wandering eulogists, craftspersons, street vendors, and representatives of different Sufi orders. The element is primarily transmitted within families, and through participation, observation, simulation, training and traditional and modern education and mass media. Quranic schools and its Sufi Sheikhs also play an important role in transmission. The element is a means of expressing devotion and solidarity, and it is a moment of communal celebration. It brings communities comfort, serves as an occasion for communities from around Sudan to meet, and is a source of livelihood for local vendors.

R.2:   Inscription would encourage the production of television programmes, documentaries and mobile exhibitions, thereby increasing the element’s visibility. Nationally, attention would be drawn to the heritage practiced in the festival in different cities. Internationally, there is likely to be greater attendance by delegations of practitioners and bearers as a result of the increased visibility of the element. The element is cherished for its promotion of tolerance and for denouncing violence and extremism. Inscription would highlight the creativity inherent in the practice of the element, such as the different cultural manifestations, designs, costumes and styles of praise chanting.

R.3:   Past and current safeguarding measures include the constant enactment and annual practice of the celebration. Every year, a ‘High Committee’ is formed consisting of local bodies and governmental and civil bodies to ensure that the celebrations are properly organized. State safeguarding efforts include declaring it an official holiday, providing logistical support in relation to safety measures, granting approvals and ensuring crowd control. Proposed safeguarding measures, supported by the State Party, include community-based research and documentation, the publication of a periodical, the realization of a theatrical play and documentation of the element by university departments. Information about the community’s planning and involvement refers mainly to their approval of the nomination file preparation rather than explicitly mentioning their contributions in relation to the safeguarding measures.

R.5:   The element is listed on the ‘National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Sudan’. The inventory is maintained by the National Council for Cultural Heritage and Promotion of National Languages, Ministry of Culture and Information. It is updated every four years. This element was selected by all participants in two workshops on procedures for safeguarding intangible heritage and project management, organized by the UNESCO Office in Khartoum, and an inventory workshop.

  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.4:   The file provides information about how the communities and groups participated in the festival itself, and how important the festival is to them. The idea to nominate the element came from an NGO, the Sudanese Society for Heritage, Culture and Arts. Thereafter, the nomination was supported by Sufi orders and sects, who provided consent letters and archival materials. In addition to civil society bodies and the media, several women’s groups also participated in workshops that led to the preparation of the nomination file.

  1. Decides to inscribe Procession and celebrations of Prophet Mohammed’s birthday in Sudan on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Reminds the State Party, when submitting nomination files in the future, to provide comprehensive safeguarding plans and of the importance of ensuring the widest possible participation of the communities concerned in the implementation of the safeguarding plan;
  3. Encourages the State Party to avoid duplication of information in response to different sections of nomination files and to avoid standardised letters of consent.