The competent body for implementing the 2003 Convention is the Directorate of National Heritage and Cultural Programmes (DNHCP) within the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sports and Culture, which has the statutory mandate of safeguarding and promoting both Namibia’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage, as dictated by the National Arts and Culture Policy. The Directorate provides the Secretariat with a National Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee established in 2011. The Committee consists of working groups that carry out specific functions as needs arise or according to its annual plan of action. This, among other functions, includes technical assistance to and working with communities in documenting their intangible cultural heritage and providing continuing training. It has created very close collaboration links with the UNESCO Office in Windhoek and the National Commission for UNESCO and other regional and national stakeholders in the development and implementation of a national strategy for intangible cultural heritage. Other bodies active in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage are the National Arts Council, the National Art Gallery of Namibia, the John Muafangejo Art Centre, the Museums Association of Namibia, the Franco Namibia Cultural Centre, the Omba Arts Trust, the National Theatre of Namibia and the National Heritage Council.
The main applicable legislation is the 2007 Constitution and National Heritage Act No. 27 (2004), which is currently under review to include intangible cultural heritage and its safeguarding in addition to the existing responsibilities of the National Heritage Council. Similarly, the National Arts and Culture Policy is undergoing revision, in part to accommodate intangible cultural heritage more adequately. In addition, Traditional Authorities Act No. 25 (2000) recognizes the importance of customary law.
As far as training in intangible cultural heritage management is concerned, the Museums Association is responsible for institutional capacity building and skills development and the University of Namibia (UNAM) also offers some related degree courses, in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts and the Department of Geography, History and Environmental Science (B.A. in Public History, Museums and Heritage Studies, since 2012). Additionally, the College of the Arts and the Department of Visual and Performing Arts of UNAM offer courses in performing arts and media studies. The College of the Arts also provides dynamic intangible cultural heritage training and skills development through several Arts Extension Programme Centres and the National Arts Council of Namibia (NACN) plays a very important role in the facilitation of skills development.
Intangible cultural heritage documentation is undertaken and/or held by the DNHCP and the Directorate of Arts through their offices and centres in all fourteen regions of the country; the National Heritage Council; the National Library and Archives Services; the National Archives; the Museums Association; and the National Art Gallery. Other bodies with relevant documentation and recordings are: the College of the Arts (National Arts Extension Programme); the Namibian Broadcasting Cooperation; and the Audio-Visual Media and Copyright Services Directorate of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.
Namibia does not currently have a coordinated system for intangible cultural heritage inventorying. Documentation on selected intangible cultural heritage elements is temporarily deposited with the National Archives. The National Heritage Council is currently revising the legislation to allow for the implementation of the 2003 Convention and is in the process of establishing the Heritage Management Programme which will enable it to start work on the Heritage Register. Information concerning thirteen elements has so far been submitted for inclusion and is awaiting assessment for a planned National Inventory. Subsequent to this, the information will be deposited in community- and State-level institutions. The general criterion for inclusion in the database and on the inventory is community recognition that a particular resource has heritage value and is worth safeguarding.
The National Committee has undertaken to improve on the frequency of inventory updates and is developing a mechanism to facilitate this process. It is also developing a Stakeholder Consultative Forum to influence the programming of partner organizations in this area. Communities participate by giving information on their intangible cultural heritage (through interviews and the donation of artefacts, such as photographs). There is a degree of urgency about establishing a more robust inventory since most of the intangible cultural heritage elements already inventoried in Namibia’s nine regions are under threat of disappearance to some degree.
In relation to the integration of intangible cultural heritage safeguarding into planning or development programmes, providing facilities alone is not enough to encourage youth and the wider community to safeguard intangible cultural heritage: there is a need to create programmes that will attract and encourage their participation in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. Entrepreneurship and skills development emphasizes the empowerment of cultural practitioners and those involved in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, helping them to benefit from revenue generated through activities and the attainment of specific vocational and entrepreneurial skills.
Measures to promote and disseminate intangible cultural heritage, support its transmission and raise awareness include the ‘My Namibia, My Country, My Pride’ campaign launched by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) in 2011 to promote national pride, cohesion and dialogue through intangible cultural heritage. National arts and culture institutions have also been encouraged to develop activities in support of this campaign. The Government has increased funding to national institutions, enabling them to take their activities, such as exhibitions, cultural exchanges, performing arts (music, dance, drama) and training and skills development to communities located outside Windhoek. The /Ae //Gams Arts and Cultural Festival, the National Culture Festival, the University of Namibia’s Annual Cultural Festival and the Polytechnic of Namibia’s Annual Cultural Festival are some such events that enhance awareness about and the promotion of intangible cultural heritage and provide documentation opportunities for relevant institutions.
As far as education is concerned, intangible cultural heritage subjects are offered in primary, secondary and tertiary education and as structured extra-mural activities (e.g. traditional performing arts) to supplement the curricula. Moreover, the Ministry of Education has introduced visual and performing arts subjects in some schools. Partnerships between schools and Traditional Authorities and their communities are one way in which intangible cultural heritage can be embedded into schools’ activities through extra-mural activities or as part of the mainstream curriculum and a means of fostering the non-formal transmission of intangible cultural heritage from older to younger generations. Communities themselves directly transmit their intangible cultural heritage through their participation in regular non-formal training programmes for the younger generation. Traditional Authorities also hold regular activities involving rites of passage for young girls such as the Olufuko Festival, the rite of passage of young girls practised by eight Traditional Authorities in Northern Namibia. Traditional Authorities also play an important role in the conservation of natural spaces related to intangible cultural heritage.
As regards bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, Namibia has actively cooperated, in particular, with neighbouring countries in Southern Africa. A sub-regional capacity-building training programme on the preparation of nomination files was organized in Windhoek in 2010, sponsored by Cyprus and with participants from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. In 2011, assistance was provided by Flanders for representatives from Namibia and Malawi to exchange information, experiences and expertise on the intangible cultural heritage of their respective countries with their Belgian counterparts. In 2013, experience from a national training of trainers session in Namibia was shared with sub-regional representatives at a Southern African intangible cultural heritage strategy meeting in Harare, which served as a platform for exchanging experiences and ideas and the consolidation of regional efforts for self-sufficiency in implementing the Convention by 2017.