Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 8.COM 7.A.3

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Botswana has nominated Traditional folk music of Bakgatla ba Kgafela (No. 00752) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

Dikopelo, the traditional music of the Bakgatla ba Kgafela, is a form of competitive choral singing and dancing without instrumental accompaniment. It is commonly performed during the festive season and at social events. One choir issues a challenge to another, and the two compete in a contest displaying their own unique styles and dance patterns. The songs celebrate the history and culture of the Bakgatla ba Kgafela, but also convey messages about contemporary issues, including cultural practices and beliefs, socio-economic and political developments, violence, poverty, HIV and AIDS, and political corruption. Dikopelo is a communal practice, involving close family relatives and neighbours; members provide each other with mutual support in times of need. Women, men and children may all participate, but experienced older practitioners direct the practice and transmit their skills through instruction and observation. The number of performances has diminished in recent years, largely as a result of increased migration to cities. In addition, popular music has replaced Dikopelo at social occasions such as weddings, parties and celebrations. Consequently, many people see Dikopelo as a cultural practice that is no longer economically viable, which has led to a loss of interest among younger generations.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List:

U.1:   Conveying the social and cultural values of the society as well as topical messages, Dikopelo music is a community practice that brings together men, women and children of Bakgatla ba Kgafela and provides them a sense of shared identity and cultural continuity;

U.2:   The practice currently faces severe threats to its viability, including shortage of spaces both for rehearsal and for performance, misappropriation of the community’s traditions by singer-songwriters, the adoption of external standards of value, the lack of interest among youth migrating to the city and the diminished respect for its performers;

U.5:   In 2010, the community of Bakgatla ba Kgafela participated in community-based intangible cultural heritage inventorying that resulted in the documentation and inclusion of the Traditional folk music of Bakgatla ba Kgafela in the Kgatleng District Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory, managed by Phuthadikobo Museum and the Department of Arts and Culture;

  1. Further decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination does not satisfy the following criteria for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List:

U.3:   Despite a number of safeguarding measures including legal recognition of folk groups and practitioners that increases their access to rehearsal and performance spaces and those aimed at increasing their knowledge of intellectual property protections, the measures proposed are largely top-down and include some that are identical to those proposed in another nomination from the State Party, which makes it difficult to discern the participation of the community in their development; inconsistencies are found between the proposed activities and budget, and no resources are identified to implement them; the timetable is too general;

U.4:   The nomination does not adequately describe how the community participated widely in the preparation of the nomination; doubts arise about the extent of their actual participation given the striking similarities between this and another nomination submitted by the State Party;

  1. Decides not to inscribe Traditional folk music of Bakgatla ba Kgafela on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Commends the State Party for submitting a nomination that demonstrates the importance of traditional folk music in the promotion of shared identity and cultural continuity of the Bakgatla ba Kgafela community, and in particular its use as vehicle to spread topical messages concerning HIV and AIDS and other issues of concern to society;
  3. Notes with interest the desire of the State Party to strengthen the capacity of the concerned community and practitioners and support them in the transmission of the element within the educational system;
  4. Reminds the State Party that safeguarding must be built on specific measures fully integrating the participation of the community and that a safeguarding plan for a given element does not necessarily meet the safeguarding needs of another element, even if the elements are similar in nature;
  5. Recommends that the State Party provide specific safeguarding measures with detailed and concrete activities, a coherent timetable, detailed budget and a clear identification of project stakeholders and their missions and resources available, including in-kind;
  6. Invites the State Party, in case it resubmits the nomination, to consider using a vernacular term within the title of the element.