Having ratified the 2003 Convention in 2004, the current report is the second one submitted by Gabon on its implementation at the national level. Following a national workshop held in 2011, a new Cultural Policy was adopted in 2012, one of the six strategic objectives of which concerns actions to safeguard, promote and manage heritage, including intangible cultural heritage. Concerning the implementing body, a Decree of 2015 establishing and organizing the General Directorate for Cultural Heritage (DGPC) updated the legislative framework. Its tasks include safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, for which it has a specified budgetary line. In this report, groups and associations representing pygmy communities are also mentioned, especially the Movement of Minorities and Pygmies of Gabon (MINAPYGA) and the Association for Good Medical and Environmental Actions (ABAME), which took part in all stages of the training activities, the identification of heritage practices and the drafting of the periodic report.
With regard to training in management, the Anthropology Department at Omar Bongo University offers a professional master’s degree in Heritage and Social Dynamics, which covers intangible cultural heritage, including questions concerning the appropriate management of this heritage.
The International Centre of Bantu Civilization (CICIBA) plays a major role in the creation of a database and documentation centre on the cultures and civilizations of Bantu speakers. It recently opened a new headquarters, in 2017, which will make it more visible.
Inventorying intangible cultural heritage is also an action specified in the aforementioned Cultural Policy (2012). The country’s inventorying process was initiated in 2012 by the Ministries of Culture and Interior with the UNESCO Office in Libreville and local authorities who organized a workshop series on community-based inventorying in 2012 to train local communities in inventorying methods. The participants from the country’s nine provinces were divided into groups according to their cultural affinities, as follows: estuary, middle Ogooué and maritime Ogooué (group 1); high Ogooué and Ogooué-Lolo (group 2); Ngounié and Nyanga (group 3); and Woleu-Ntem and Ogooué-Ivindo (group 4). This made it possible to work with representatives of municipal and departmental councils who interact with and are themselves members of communities. This approach, by introducing its main terms, domains and concepts, allowed for the localization of the Convention so that local communities could define and identify their intangible cultural heritage while becoming familiar with inventorying methods. This led to the local communities being able to identify twenty-one elements based on the domains defined in the Convention. The inventory itself constitutes a safeguarding measure and will necessitate a regulation providing for the creation and administration of a documentation fund under the DGPC. Within the International Assistance mechanism of the Convention, work towards an inventory of the intangible cultural heritage of the Babongo, Baka and Bakoya populations of pygmy peoples of Gabon has led, since 2015, to the identification of those elements in need of urgent safeguarding, an inventory adapted to the cultural context of the pygmies and a national safeguarding action plan. To this end, a Steering Committee was established in 2015, including both an administrative and a technical section, the latter involving a member of the UNESCO Global network of facilitators, representatives of the MINAPYGA and AVAME Associations, the Head of the Conservation Service, an anthropologist and others. Two field missions were conducted in 2016 in the High Ogooué with the Babongo people at Akieni and in the Ogooué-Ivindo with the Bakoya people at Mékambo. More than twenty-five elements have been identified, in addition to traditional craftsmanship skills. The Akouyi Ditchinda, a circumcision ceremony and ritual and the celebratory Dissiembo dance are given as examples.
Documentation, as a safeguarding measure, will not only allow for access to this heritage but will also make it possible to define a thorough cultural policy for intangible cultural heritage in Gabon, while respecting customary restrictions on access and the living character of intangible cultural heritage. A workshop was planned for April 2017 for the development of the nomination file of Mvett to the Representative List at the Oyem Central Municipality; the safeguarding measures proposed by the Association of Mvett Tellers of Gabon will be reported on more fully in the next periodic report. The Ministry of Economics, Communication, Culture and Arts shall reconsider its arrangements with research institutes within the broader framework of the new cultural policy on intangible cultural heritage, in order to ascertain whether or not to re-establish them and to what purpose. On the legislative plan, up until now there has only been the Decree adopted in 2015 relating to Gabon’s request for International Assistance.
Gabon has benefited from a number of capacity-building workshops, ranging from a training of trainers workshop to a training session for the Steering Committee in inventorying methods. More recently, the UNESCO Office in Libreville organized one on the preparation of nominations to the Representative List, the Urgent Safeguarding List and the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, Gabon has successfully submitted a request for International Assistance (approved by the Bureau in 2015) for conducting the aforementioned inventory of the intangible cultural heritage of the Babongo, Baka and Bakoya populations of pygmy peoples of Gabon.
Thus far, Gabon has no elements inscribed on the Representative List.