The Direction Nationale du Patrimoine Culturel (DNPC, National Directorate of Cultural Heritage) is the national body charged with cultural heritage policy-making and coordination, namely the identification, safeguarding and promotion of national cultural heritage. Its capacities for safeguarding have been strengthened by the creation of Directions Régionales de la Culture (DRC, Regional Cultural Directorates) in each region and Missions Culturelles (MC, Cultural Missions) dedicated to all the inscribed and/or classified elements. At the local level, in each commune a commission for cultural heritage is created, which is made up of the administrative, community and customary authorities and leaders. It gives advice on all matters concerned with the safeguarding and promotion of local heritage and organizes community participation in the restoration, maintenance and running of cultural infrastructures.
The DNPC has undertaken training in the safeguarding and promotion of intangible cultural heritage, inventorying intangible cultural heritage and documentary photography aimed at groups and community associations engaged in safeguarding heritage and at school teachers. In addition to the DNPC, the Institut Universitaire de Développement Territorial (IUDT, University Institute for Territorial Development) is involved in providing training in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.
The DNPC is also the lead institution active in documenting intangible cultural heritage, along with other institutions such as the Direction Nationale des Bibliothèques et de la Documentation (DNBD, National Directorate for Libraries and Documentation); the Institut des Sciences Humaines (ISH, Human Sciences Institute); and the National Museum of Mali, whose activities include research into and the documentation of intangible cultural heritage (collecting information on tales, divination and secret societies). The rituals, ceremonies and festivals organized by the communities that the Ministry of Culture and its regional and local offshoots help to finance also provide information that forms the basis for inventorying and which is provided to the DNPC for its evaluation. The final documentation is then validated by community representatives. There is also a dedicated research and documentation centre for the cultural space of Yaaral and Degal, which is attached to the Regional Directorate of Culture of Mopti. Each of these institutions has a guidance and reception desk in order to facilitate users’ access to the service, while providing them with information and advice, enhancing access to knowledge about cultural heritage, youth education, and promoting research.
The DNPC is charged with identifying and inventorying Mali’s cultural heritage, which it does in cooperation with the Regional Directorates of Culture and Cultural Missions. This has been built up in stages. An outline of a national cultural heritage inventory was established in 2003. A pilot inventory of intangible cultural heritage was undertaken in Koulikoro, Sikasso Segou and Gao Regions in 2007 and, from 2007 to 2010, inventories of tangible and intangible heritage were conducted in several communes or focused on specific elements. A General Inventory of National Cultural Heritage is currently underway. Sessions for training trainers and interviewers have taken place and interviews began in 2011; the preliminary results of these are being collated.
Information is collected in the communities and among producers and bearers and transmitted through the DRCs and MCs to the DNPC. The criteria used for inclusion of intangible cultural heritage elements in the inventory are that they be: characteristic of the local culture; acknowledged by communities as the hallmark of their cultural identities and factors of cultural diversity; and living, traditional elements of intangible cultural heritage that provide local people with a sense of identity and continuity. The viability of intangible cultural heritage is taken into account in the inventory form (fiche). The form used is based on that supplied by UNESCO, but with some modifications. The methodology used involves conducting library research concerning the locality and ethnic groups concerned, and then revising or updating the inventory form. In order to minimize difficulties, information and sensitization missions are conducted with the local administrative, community and customary authorities. These field trips also allow for the identification of places for study according to the criteria and local interviewers, who are then trained in the use of the inventory form.
Among the measures to ensure the recognition of, respect for and enhancement of intangible cultural heritage, the Ministry of Culture regularly provides financing (through its regional and local bodies) for rituals, ceremonies and festivals organized by communities. National Cultural Heritage Week also serves to strengthen and promote intangible cultural heritage by providing a forum for the exchange of experiences between institutions, cultural professionals, decentralized groupings, communities and civil society on current problems relating to the safeguarding and promotion of national intangible cultural heritage. Debates and quizzes on intangible cultural heritage are also held for school pupils. The DNPC also organizes radio and TV programmes on aspects of intangible cultural heritage, including its transmission, in addition to putting out promotional products and materials for use by local actors (city councils, heads of schools, village councils etc.). The government also promotes the status of intangible cultural heritage and its practitioners by proclaiming leading exponents Living Human Treasures, seven of which were proclaimed in 2008.
Education in cultural heritage provided by the DNPC to young school pupils through guided visits to sites and cultural spaces and sociocultural activities about these sites and monuments is one of the most important means for them of acquiring knowledge about and an understanding of the past, safeguarding intangible cultural heritage and strengthening their cultural identity. Building upon a workshop conducted by the École du patrimoine africain (EPA, African School of Heritage), a national network was created in Mali to advocate for integrating intangible cultural heritage elements into teaching programmes and teacher training and also to prepare an educational guide for this. These formal education efforts take on added importance because of the obstacles to traditional transmission processes and non-formal learning.
With regard to bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’lvoire have organized many meetings and exchanges of experience on the cultural practices and traditions related to Balafon and the cultural space of the Senufo. The resulting expert documents are shared among the institutions and made available to communities, practitioners and producers of intangible cultural heritage. Such exchanges of information and documentation also occur between the Directorates in Mali and Burkina Faso responsible for inventorying intangible cultural heritage, especially the methodology for improving inventory forms. The DNPC has also participated in various sub-regional seminars, such as: the reinforcement of intangible cultural heritage through the cultural industries (Senegal); the role of intangible cultural heritage in strengthening intercultural and civilizational dialogue (Chad); the shared heritages of North Africa and the Sahel (Morocco); and memory and policy (Kenya).
Mali reports here on three elements on the Representative List: the cultural space of the Yaaral and Degal (incorporated in 2008, after having been proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005); the Manden Charter, proclaimed in Kurukan Fuga (2009); and the Septennial re-roofing ceremony of the Kamablon, sacred house of Kangaba (2009). National Heritage Week (2010) was dedicated to the Malian intangible cultural heritage elements on the Representative List and included information and sensitization sessions, radio and TV programmes, debates etc. in Bamako and regional centres. The inscription of the Charter of Manden has encouraged local populations and the diaspora, researchers, culture professionals, cultural associations etc. to learn more about the element and promote it. The inscription of the re-roofing ceremony of the Kamablon has made it easier for the local population to contact the authorities and create a community contact group that aims to establish exchanges with its partners, providing information, sensitizing the public etc. In formal education, efforts are being made to intensify current activities, especially by strengthening capacities within communities; the first step will be to integrate living heritage elements related to Yaaral and Degal into educational programmes within the areas concerned. Community participation in decision-making processes for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage are strong in Mali and the communities also have traditional roles to play in these, based on custom. As a result, the local authorities (acting as ‘agents’ of the DNPC) directly consult and work with these traditional structures in their safeguarding activities.