The 1983 Cultural Heritage Law was revised to take account of intangible cultural heritage and the Government has put in place operational structures for the safeguarding and management of intangible cultural heritage and developed its institutional capacity. Following the ratification of the 2003 Convention, the National Cultural Policy was adopted in 2007 that took account of intangible cultural heritage safeguarding. Since 2007, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture has integrated intangible cultural heritage into its action plan. A National Linguistic Policy is in the process of adoption and will, no doubt, also have implications for intangible cultural heritage.
The Culture Directorate of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is the institution with overall responsibility for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, working in cooperation with: the Directorate for Events and Recreation, the Centre Burundais pour la Lecture et l’Animation Culturelle (CEBULAC, Burundian Centre for Reading and Cultural Action) (organizes various cultural events), the National Ballet (a national body for folklore and traditional dance) and clubs and associations under the coordination of the Forum National des Artistes pour l’Action et le Dévelopement (FNAAD, National Forum of Artists for Action and Development) (a national body for folklore and traditional dance).
The MYSC has organized a training session for its staff on implementing the Convention in the Swedish Centre and with UNESCO’s support. Also in 2012, a workshop was held on ‘Culture and Development’ in Burundi Centre for Reading and Cultural Activities (CEBULAC) (in collaboration with the Club Lac aux Oiseaux and with UNESCO’s support).
The main institutions that carry out intangible cultural heritage-related documentation are: the Living Museum with its Craft Village, the Centre for Oral Traditions of the National Library (which undertakes partial inventories of traditional know-how), the National Museum of Gitega (its collections), Burundi National Radio-Television (archival footage), Educational and Teaching Bureaux, the Grand Seminary Library (documentation on oral traditions), various libraries and documentation centres of the University of Burundi (several works and theses on intangible cultural heritage-related subjects) and the documentation centre of the National Commission for UNESCO.
Measures have been taken to establish an inventory of Burundi’s intangible cultural heritage under the supervision of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. The name of this inventory is (in English) the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements Distributed in the Territory and Its Bearers (‘the Inventory’). The Inventory, which is ordered according to both domains and geographical regions, has been undertaken since 2007-8 and comprises 222 elements. The Inventory format covers the following information: identification of the element, its characteristics, its scope, the existence of practitioners and practising communities and the actual condition of the element. The criteria for inclusion are as follows: the visibility and current condition of the element; the existence of exponents and bearer communities of the traditions; the availability of support materials for the elements; and the clear consent of the communities or practitioners of the element. It is also considered necessary to identify intangible cultural heritage under threat of disappearance and requiring urgent safeguarding. This is especially true for traditional music, certain knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, pharmacopeia, poetry-related to hunting and fishing etc., which are threatened because of the vulnerability or absence of the bearers and practitioners.
The format is based on the use of a questionnaire prepared in advance in the Kirundi language and filled in with the involvement of bearers who have freely provided responses. The Inventory was established with the direct involvement of the communities since their role was critical for identifying the localities in which to carry it out. The inventorying work was also helped by the participation of officials from the Department of Culture and students from the University of Burundi, the Institute of Applied Education and the École Normale Supérieure. Some NGOs working in the provinces and through different cultural clubs were also involved in finding and identifying intangible cultural heritage on the ground, in particular: Search for Common Ground, Care International, the Réseau National des Jeunes en Action pour la Paix et la Réconciliation nationale (REJA, National Network of Youth in Action for Peace and Reconciliation), and Umurama Drums.
As a measure to promote intangible cultural heritage, the MYSC has organized a Burundian culture festival since 2006 where all cultural actors, exponents of traditional dance (including of the Batwa minority) and Burundian drummers give demonstrations and discover new talent. In addition, with financing from an NGO, Wallonie Bruxelles Internationale, since 2011 it has organized a National Drum Festival that brings together all the percussionists in Burundi to perform and exchange experiences; it also introduces young people to the art. The National Artists’ Forum for Action and Development organizes an Arts Biennial in Bujumbura, which provides a platform for artists and artisans from East Africa to express themselves and exhibit their work. TV and other media (including community radio and print media) play a very important role in disseminating intangible cultural heritage through their educational and cultural transmissions.
Different Ministries have collaborated with the Ministry of Education to incorporate teaching about intangible cultural heritage into the section of the education curriculum dealing with national language. In addition, elements of intangible cultural heritage are taught in relation to oral literature (e.g. proverbs, tales, elegiac and pastoral poetry). For several years, Burundi University has organized field trips for secondary school children to places of memory, which include places with links to intangible cultural heritage such as a place of memory of the Kubandwa cult and the site of Karera where gods are invoked. Some private and public institutions also undertake intangible cultural heritage-related educational activities, as follows: the Gitega Art School teaches plastic arts to young people; the Gishora Sanctuary, a reference centre, trains young people in the drum dance; various cultural clubs teach traditional dance; and radio and TV stations produce educational programmes on intangible cultural heritage. Other formal and non-formal education takes place at: the Craft Village of the Living Museum; the Offices of the Basic Education Programmes and General and Technical Secondary Education; and training centres for professions. Inter-generational intangible cultural heritage transmission takes place within the family through the ‘evening school’; in this way, children become interested from a young age in singing, dancing, proverbs and tales recounted around the fire.
The sites in which various rituals and ceremonies take place are protected by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Land-use Planning. As mentioned above, school visits are organized to such places as a form of education and the Ministry of Culture is also involved in awareness-raising about them.
Bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation takes the form of academic and professional exchanges with neighbouring countries. Networks of experts and centres of expertise and research are growing more and more, especially through the Centre International de Recherche et de Documentation sur les Traditions et les Langues Africaines (CERDOTOLA, International Centre for Documentation on African Traditions and Languages), Africalia, l’Observatoire des Politiques Culturelles Africaines (OCPA, Observatory for African Cultural Policies) and the Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique (IFRA, French Institute for African Research). For example, a meeting concerning putting in place a National Cultural Policy organized in Bujumbura in 2014 (by the Collectif des Producteurs de l’Audiovisuel et du Cinéma (COPRODAC, Audio-visual and Cinema Producers’ Collective) received financial support from Africalia and technical support from OCPA. Burundian dancers and drummers participate in regional festivals, such as the Pan-African Festival of Dance organized in Rwanda in 2012 and musicians have participated, for example, in the Star Festival of African Cultural Integration of Benin and the Pan-African Music Festival. They have also participated in international festivals in Europe, America and Asia.