Safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage of the Batammariba of Koutammakou

Dates of implementation
01/04/2007 - 01/06/2009
Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Primary Education of Togo


  • Safeguard the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) of the Batammariba community living in the Koutammakou World Heritage Site.
  • Raise awareness of the importance of safeguarding ICH throughout Togo.
  • Integrate the Litammari language and Batammariba culture into the formal education system.



The cultural landscape of Koutammakou in northeastern Togo is renowned for its mud tower houses called ‘takienta’. The land is imbued with meaning for the resident Batammariba people, whose rituals, beliefs, crafts, songs, sports and agricultural practices are strongly linked to the surrounding natural elements. In 2004, the cultural landscape was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, with a management plan that recognises the importance of the local population’s customary practices in maintaining and protecting it. The project was developed as a pilot for integrating the safeguarding of the ICH of a resident community at a World Heritage site. It also aimed to demonstrate the beneficial feedback loop between safeguarding ICH and protecting associated tangible heritage.

Project components

The project featured four components. The first focused on the inter-generational transmission of knowledge and skills through apprenticeships in a number of traditions such as crafts, traditional medicine, takienta construction and traditional songs and dances. The second component introduced the local Litammari language into the formal education system through the development of teaching materials, teacher training and language lessons. The third component concentrated efforts on safeguarding and awareness raising through the documentation of Batammariba ICH elements and the establishment of an institutional framework for curating archival materials and collected data. Finally, the fourth component concentrated on the promotion of sustainable and responsible tourism among the residents as well as visitors to the World Heritage site.


Twenty craftspeople, two traditional therapists and ten master builders trained a total of fifty-six apprentices in their respective specialties, including making musical instruments, pottery, basketry, using medicinal plants and building or renovating takienta. Twelve cultural coordinators across the three cantons of Nadoba, Koutougou and Warengo taught traditional songs, dances, tales and archery to over 300 primary school students.

A textbook for primary school students in the Litammari language and an accompanying teacher’s manual was developed and distributed to the region’s twelve schools. Additional teaching manuals for reading, writing and math in the Litammari language were produced and twelve teachers were trained in their use. Finally, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education officially introduced the Batammariba culture and its Litammari language into the nation’s primary and secondary school curricula, extending the potential transmission and awareness of Batammariba ICH beyond the project’s completion date and original geographic scope.

Oral traditions, music and songs performed during customary ceremonies such as funerals and initiation rituals were recorded, transcribed and published in French. A cultural centre in Warengo and an archive in Nadoba were built in the local Batammariba architectural style and serve as physical bases for safeguarding activities.

An inventory and accompanying map of sites considered sacred by Batammariba community members was developed. A code of good conduct was then prepared in consultation with the resident community to inform tourists of culturally-respectful behaviour when visiting the World Heritage site. Finally, a training workshop was offered to local tour guides to reinforce the code of good conduct and ensure its application.


  • A primary school textbook and teacher’s manual for teaching the Litammari language.
  • Teaching manuals for reading, writing and math in the Litammari language.
  • An inventory and map of Batammariba sacred sites.
  • A code of good conduct for visitors to the World Heritage site.

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