Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 9.COM 9.a.7

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Uganda has nominated Male-child cleansing ceremony of the Lango of central northern Uganda (No. 00982) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

The male-child cleansing ceremony, performed among the Lango people of central northern Uganda, is a healing ritual for a male child believed to have lost his manhood. During the ceremony, the mother and male child spend three days inside the house and eat unsweetened millet porridge. The child is treated as a baby for the duration of the ceremony. On the third day, they exit the house and sit at the entrance, accompanied by a paternal cousin. The child’s hair is cut and woven into strands, which are mixed with softened ficus bark and shea butter, then tied around the child’s neck, wrist, and waist. Remaining strands are rolled into a ball, and thrown three times to the mother, cousin and child. The three are then smeared with shea butter and served pea paste, millet bread and a millet-yeast brew. Jubilations begin thereafter with ululations, singing and dancing, confirming that the child has regained his manhood. The ceremony promotes reconciliation and restores the social status of the child. Limited practice, however, is affecting its viability. Many bearers are aged and the practice is increasingly performed in secrecy for fear of excommunication.

  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:   Deeply rooted in the belief system of the Lango people, the cleansing ceremony restores the manhood of male children, reintegrating them into society; it provides for reconciliation between family members and promotes social and generational continuity;

U.2:   With practitioners of the ceremony being elderly and few in number, displacement of the population caused by civil wars, as well as the present-day influence of Christianity that condemns the practice, the element’s viability is weakened and faced with severe threats to its continuity;

U.3:   Proposed safeguarding measures include education and raising awareness, documentation and dissemination of information on the ceremony, and the replanting of the indigenous species of shea trees needed for the ritual;

U.4:   The nomination benefited from the wide support and participation of the Lango community through a number of consultative meetings at which they provided their free, prior and informed consent;

U.5:   The male-child cleansing ceremony was included in 2013 in the inventory of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development; it is updated annually by the ministry.

  1. Inscribes Male-child cleansing ceremony of the Lango of central northern Uganda on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Acknowledges the efforts of the submitting State to safeguard an element that serves an important role in maintaining the social cohesion and existence of the Lango people;
  3. Encourages the State Party to ensure the full and active participation of the community in the implementation of proposed safeguarding measures;
  4. Further encourages the State Party to mobilize the necessary funding and the responsible bodies and other parties concerned to implement the safeguarding measures.