Sebeïba Rituals and Ceremonies in Algeria
1. ICH domains
Oral traditions and expressions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, traditional craftsmanship
2. Short description
The rituals and ceremonies of Sebeïba are practised annually by two Tuareg communities living in the Algerian oasis of Djanet.
Male dancers and female singers represent their communities during a nine-day competition called Timoulawine, after which the winners take part in the Sebeïba rituals and ceremonies the next day. The male dancers will dress as warriors and together with female singers, walk to a place called Loghya for the performance of the ritual. The ritual will see the male dancers parade and present their weapons, thereafter standing in a ritual circle rattling their swords continuously as the women sing traditional songs to the rhythm of the tambourine.
These ceremonies reinforce social cohesion, symbolically warding off potential violence between rival communities by simulating and transposing the latter into music, singing, choreography and ceremonial dress. This element was inscribed by UNESCO in 2014 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
For a 4-minute film showing a sequence of Sebeïba activities, see (in French):
An illustrated booklet on Sebeïba ritual and ceremonies:
3. Link with sustainable development
By safeguarding Sebeïba ritual and ceremonies, communities in Djanet foster peace and social cohesion: the rituals and ceremonies are marked by serenity and tolerance and constitute a moment of communion and reunion. Participation is open to all adults, men and women without distinction. The reproduction of social ties and cohesion are staged every year during these rituals and ceremonies, reducing the likelihood of conflicts and inequality and facilitating sustainable development. Broadly, Sebeïba rituals and ceremonies contribute to SDG 10 on the reduction of inequality within and among countries, and to SDG 16, on the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies.
Moreover, the festival allows increased activity for artisans involved in producing and repairing musical instruments, jewellery and weapons. This aspect reflects SDG 8 on promoting inclusive economic growth and the creation of quality jobs.
4. Questions for reflection
Celebration of the Sebeïba ritual and ceremonies remains a localised event, and an increase in tourists could potentially undermine its cultural significance. How can the potential tourism attraction of Sebeïba ritual and ceremonies be managed to foster the latter’s social cohesion agenda rather than undermine it?
Do you know of local rituals that have started attracting tourists?
How did that new development manage to ensure that the viability of the ICH is not threatened?
Does the event contribute to the reduction of inequality or does it maintain the traditional social hierarchy?