Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 9.COM 10.17

The Committee

  1. Takes note that France has nominated Gwoka: music, song, dance and cultural practice representative of Guadeloupean identity (No. 00991) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Gwoka is found among all ethnic and religious groups of Guadeloupean society. It combines responsorial singing in Guadeloupean Creole, rhythms played on the Ka drums and dancing. In its traditional form, Gwoka unites these three areas of expression and emphasizes individual qualities of improvisation. The participants and public form a circle in which dancers and soloists enter in turn and perform, facing the drums. The public claps and takes up the chorus from the soloist. Several thousand people regularly practise Gwoka at open-air Gwoka evenings, where the dance circle functions as a place to develop individual talents. Transmission of the practice and Ka drum-making skills is both informal through families and groups of friends, but also increasingly through formal workshops and schools of traditional dance and music. Gwoka is one of the most identifiable elements of Guadeloupean society and its contemporary expressions explore new avenues of music, choreography or singing. It is present at the high points of daily life, as well as at festive, cultural and secular events. It also accompanies movements of social and political protest. It strengthens identity and provides a feeling of communal development and individual pride, conveying values of conviviality, resistance and dignity.

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

R.1:   Originally performed by slaves of African origin, Gwoka is nowadays practised and recreated by all ethnic and religious groups in Guadeloupe, a symbol of identity reinforcing social cohesion and mutual respect;

R.2:   Its inscription on the Representative List could increase the awareness and visibility of intangible cultural heritage at the local and regional levels, and its contemporary expressions could promote human creativity thanks to the rich diversity of music, dancing and songs;

R.3:   Creative, elaborate and coherent safeguarding measures are proposed aiming at transmitting, documenting and promoting Gwoka, testifying to the joint efforts of the State, local authorities and the representatives of the Gwoka community;

R.4:   The nomination is the result of the shared efforts of numerous Gwoka associations, practitioners and experts, as well as local authorities; their participation at all stages is reflected and they provided their free, prior and informed consent;

R.5:   With the active participation of the concerned community, the element was included in 2012 in the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in France, maintained by the Ministry of Culture and Communication.

  1. Inscribes Gwoka: music, song, dance and cultural practice representative of Guadeloupean identity on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.