The Department of Culture (DOC) in the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts is the competent body for intangible cultural heritage safeguarding and collaborates with the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) (through its Coastal Forest Conservation Unit) and with the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO. The Department also works with certain UNESCO-accredited non-governmental organizations to safeguard intangible cultural heritage at the local level, namely the African Cultural Regeneration Institute (ACRI), the Cultural Initiative for Biodiversity Conservation (CIBC), and Maasai Cultural Heritage (MCH).
The National Policy on Culture and Heritage, which was approved in 2010 and is currently being revised, captures the role of intangible cultural heritage in the development of the country. It obligates the State to train and educate personnel on aspects of inventory making, research, documentation and safeguarding. It further requires the State to enhance, support and assist in the promotion of the intangible cultural heritage of Kenya by promoting and safeguarding intangible cultural heritage and by disseminating related knowledge. The Department of Culture is in the process of developing a legislative framework for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in accordance with the 2010 Constitution of Kenya, which requires that this be achieved before the end of 2015.
The Institute of Anthropology, Gender and African Studies (IAGAS) of the University of Nairobi offers training in intangible cultural heritage management, including anthropology courses and a postgraduate Diploma in Care and Management of Heritage and Museum Collections as well as Ph.D. programmes. An international non-governmental organization headquartered in Kenya, the Centre for Heritage Development in Africa (CHDA), also provides training and support programmes for professionals and institutions responsible for cultural heritage management. It has established an intangible cultural heritage conservation management unit to boost the capacities of communities and organizations.
The key institutions for the documentation of intangible cultural heritage in Kenya are the Department of Culture (DOC), the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), the Permanent Presidential Music Commission (PPMC) and the National Archives and Documentation Service (KNADS). In conformity with the 2010 Constitution, these archives are to provide public access to their information.
In November 2008, the Department of Culture carried out a survey in collaboration with other stakeholders in western Kenya to identify intangible cultural heritage. The results of this survey laid the foundation for the formulation of the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements, established by the DOC. The ordering principle for the Inventory is both territorial and according to communities/groups of tradition bearers who make direct requests for the inventorying of the intangible cultural heritage in their region. The information gathered is submitted to the national office where it is collated into the Inventory. The criteria used for inclusion of intangible cultural heritage elements in the inventory are as follow: the element fulfils the definition of intangible cultural heritage as per Articles 2, 11, 12 and 13 of the 2003 Convention; it belongs to one or more of the five domains of intangible cultural heritage set out in the Convention; it must be recognized by communities, groups and in some cases individuals as forming part of their cultural heritage; request for inclusion in the Inventory must come from the community concerned and there must be consent; it should provide a sense of identity and continuity to the bearers; and it must be in conformity with existing international human rights instruments, the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals and sustainable development. As for viability, one criterion for inclusion is that the element be viable (living, rooted in tradition and constantly recreated). Communities are involved in identifying and defining intangible cultural heritage elements to be included in the Inventory through field surveys, workshops and seminars as well as open community forums.
Among the measures to ensure the recognition of, respect for and enhancement of intangible cultural heritage, Kenya has translated the 2003 Convention into Kiswahili, allowing for a wider dissemination of the information and greater participation in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. The first national stakeholders’ workshop on the Convention was held in 2008, with participants from Government institutions, research organizations, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, universities and communities. Since 2008, other awareness-raising meetings have been held around the country with the communities concerned. The annual Kenya Music and Cultural Festival that begins at the county level and progresses to the national level is Kenya’s flagship programme for raising public awareness on intangible cultural heritage. Every year, communities showcase their cultures at this festival for the general public.
With regard to non-formal means of transmitting knowledge, two field visits of young people to the Kayas were organized in 2012 for primary and secondary school students, to raise their interest in and promote intergenerational transmission of and participation in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. The degree of interest shown by the students was extremely surprising to both the Kaya elders and the facilitating organizations.
As far as bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation is concerned, in 2012 the Department of Culture held a two-day regional workshop for policy-makers, including the Directors of Culture of Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya. The objectives of the workshop included developing an Action Plan for the implementation of the Convention in East Africa to be used and adapted as needed by the countries of the region. Two UNESCO-trained experts from Kenya conducted capacity-building workshops in Tanzania on aspects of the implementation of the Convention between 2011 and 2012.
The preparation of this Periodic Report was a rigorous process that required regular consultations with communities, groups, non-governmental organizations and others who have been involved in the implementation of the Convention. The Department of Culture organized a series of consultative meetings throughout the country with the various stakeholders to share ideas, opinions, and gather information.
Sobre elementos de la Lista de salvaguardia urgente
Tradiciones y prácticas vinculadas a los kayas en los bosques sagrados de los mijikendas, inscrito en 2009
- Informe: inglés|francés
- Decisión: 9.COM 5.b.2
The Mijikenda communities comprise nine Bantu-speaking ethnic groups whose identity is expressed through oral traditions related to the sacred Kaya forests of coastal Kenya. Kayas are fortified settlements whose cultural spaces are indispensable for the enactment of living traditions of the Mijikenda. These traditions and practices constitute their codes of ethics, governance systems and important social rituals. Councils of elders act as the custodians of the Kayas and the related cultural expressions. Although in the report it is mentioned that the element is generally still viable, it is also noted that some Mijikenda are losing attachment to it and are abandoning the Kayas for informal urban settlements. Other factors identified by the reporting State affecting the viability of the element include lack of livelihoods in the local areas, encroachment into their traditional lands, increasingly advanced age of tradition bearers and loss of interest of young generation in the traditional ways of life.
Effectiveness of the safeguarding activities
The safeguarding activities, financed by International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund, empowered six out of nine Mijikenda communities with skills, knowledge and resources, contributing effectively to promoting the transmission and viability of the element, as mentioned in the report. Kenya notes also that they have greatly improved the self-esteem and identification of the local people and awoken youth interest in the traditions and practices associated with the sacred forests of the Mijikenda. In particular, it is stated in the report that the replanting of trees has improved the conservation status of the forests. School visits, cultural festival and intercommunity visits strengthened safeguarding and raised public awareness about the element, particularly among the local communities. The reporting State explains that proceeds obtained from income-generating activities allow the Mijikenda communities to continue with the enactment of their traditions and practices.
In the report it is stated that young members of the Mijikenda community volunteered to undergo apprenticeship so as to gain knowledge and understanding of the practices as they prepare to become future members of the Council of Elders. Conservation groups have been involved in replanting trees in the Kayas, developing codes of conduct in the management of the Kayas and enforcing customary practices governing access to the element. As reported by Kenya, in Kaya Rabai and Kaya Duruma, the Council of Elders invited several schools into the Kayas where the elders informally introduced the learners to the traditions and practices of the Mijikenda. The Kaya elders also continue to carry out exchange visits to share ideas and best practices of safeguarding the element.
Viability and current risks
According to the State Party, the inscription of the element on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and safeguarding activities have contributed to its visibility and helped strengthening its safeguarding. The traditions and practices associated to the Kayas are still viable despite a number of challenges. The Councils of Elders transmit knowledge about the traditions and practices to the young generation through apprenticeship. The County administration recognizes the role of the Councils and involves them in consultations pertaining to security and socio-cultural issues affecting the Mijikenda, in particular prevention and resolution of conflicts. Since many of the elders are ageing, most Kayas have started recruiting young and energetic elders for continued transmission of the element. In the report it is mentioned that conservation efforts need to continue to sustain the natural resources associated with the Kayas. Increased flows of tourists to the Kayas threaten its safeguarding and tend to undermine customary practices governing access to the element; in order to mitigate such risk, Kenya reports that the Kaya elders have resolved to reinforce strict codes to regulate access to their ancestral lands.