The national body charged with the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is the Culture Department of the Ministry of Social Development and Culture. Within that Department is the National Heritage Research Section (NHRS), which contains three major sub-units (dealing with Oral Traditions, Cultural Site Management and Copyright). NHRS is the main body that conducts safeguarding actions, including collecting, researching, documenting, disseminating and promoting the tangible and intangible heritage of Seychelles. It also conducts research on such subjects as Seychellois habitat, traditional medicine, traditional fishing and industries, songs, dances, riddles, legends, traditional cuisine and the maritime heritage of Seychelles. It organizes public lectures, cultural site safeguarding programmes, media programmes and publications and acts as a consultancy agency in cultural matters. The Creole Institute of the Seychelles is also a significant body for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, with the aim of promoting and developing the Creole language and literature through mother tongue education, research, the use of information and communications technologies, cultural events and the collection/documentation of Creole literature. The National Arts Council can also support intangible cultural heritage by developing local arts, providing facilities, training, guidance and services to artists and by assisting with and coordinating the activities of arts associations. The National Conservatoire of Performing Arts (NCPA) contributes to the transmission of intangible cultural heritage through the provision of education in music, dance and drama. The Cultural Policy of 2004 and Research Protocol of 2008 are both currently being revised to ensure they are up-to-date with new developments. As a Member State of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Seychelles is also planning on drawing up a National Indigenous Knowledge Systems (lKS) policy before a regional policy is established.
Documentation is mainly undertaken by the NHRS Documentation Centre, which holds documentary materials and photographic records from research carried out, information gathered from other sources (newspapers, reference books, oral history on audio cassettes, videos, associated tangible artefacts, etc.) The Centre makes these materials available to researchers and the general public (including tourists) and facilitates access with the aim of raising awareness and disseminating knowledge of various aspects of intangible cultural heritage and its associated tangible artefacts. The Seychelles National Archives holds all government records and provides access to these to the general public, researchers, etc. The Creole Institute also has an extensive collection of Seychelles literature (stories, poems, proverbs, riddles, legends, etc.) and the Seychelles national TV and radio broadcaster holds audio and audio-visual recordings of intangible cultural heritage elements and interviews with key bearers. Work is being done on the digitization of intangible cultural heritage documents, following the necessary technical training. This will increase the accessibility of this documentation while also better safeguarding the original materials. As far as legal and policy documents are concerned, a Copyright Act (1991), Research Protocol (2008), Archives Act (1964), and Cultural Policy (2004) all govern access to and the usage of information regarding intangible cultural heritage in Seychelles’ cultural institutions.
Originally, intangible cultural heritage inventorying was made up of the documentation carried out by the NHRS and the Creole Institute, with research being the main objective. These early inventories covered a wide range of intangible cultural heritage domains. A National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage has now been instituted in Seychelles with financial support from UNESCO. The viability of each element inventoried is taken into account. This is a basic step for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and will serve as an important tool in this regard locally. In terms of community involvement in identifying and/or defining intangible cultural heritage for the inventory, the local community has always played an important part in the inventorying process. The local communities of the most populated islands are involved in providing information and also updating and validating the inventory. Local non-governmental organizations are also involved (such as the Association of Promoters of Complementary Health in Seychelles or APOCHIS, a non-governmental organization representing complementary medicine practitioners).
As far as measures to integrate safeguarding intangible cultural heritage into planning or development programmes are concerned, it is noteworthy that the Culture Department is under the control of the Ministry of Social Development and Culture. This ensures that social development is part of the overall objective of intangible cultural heritage safeguarding and, equally, safeguarding intangible cultural heritage is integrated into national development planning and policy-making. The main such policy document is the five-year Strategic Plan (2011-2015). This is aimed at culture becoming a pillar of sustainable development and includes, inter alia, adopting sustainable safeguarding methods, cultural initiatives to encourage expression and participation and general awareness-raising in relation to intangible cultural heritage.
In terms of awareness-raising and promotion, the general public has become well aware of the importance of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage as a result of continued government efforts to give value to Seychellois culture through the local media, cultural talks, publications, the integration of certain elements of intangible cultural heritage into the educational curriculum and various local activities. Such activities include cultural manifestations such as a Heritage Bazaar, a Heritage Week, the ‘Bazar Labrin’ and the annual ‘Kreol Festival’. The latter is a week-long event held at a national level to promote and celebrate various aspects of intangible cultural heritage (dance, music, arts, oral traditions, games, etc.). It is aimed at the general public of all ages and seeks to aid intergenerational transmission. The NHRS also organizes various programmes including public lectures, media programmes and publications. It also organizes guided tours of culturally significant sites, which are very popular. In fact, it is not awareness of intangible cultural heritage that is the main challenge, but rather the lack of financial resources for publications, organizing cultural events, building cultural spaces, etc.
With regard to education, aspects of intangible cultural heritage have been included in school curricula, with Creole now being used as the medium of teaching from crèche to primary grade 4. Importantly, this is aimed at ensuring that children are not socially or educationally disadvantaged by the language of instruction as much as it is intended to safeguard the language itself. Oral traditions, such as riddles and songs, alongside traditional construction methods, are incorporated and children are encouraged to consult their parents and grandparents as an encouragement to transmission. Knowledge of intangible cultural heritage is later incorporated into lessons such as social studies at primary grades 5 and 6, and subjects such as geography and history refer to intangible cultural heritage at secondary level with students encouraged to research various aspects of intangible cultural heritage. This is not confined to the classroom and traditional games are also incorporated into physical education and extra-curricular activities such as wildlife clubs. Intangible cultural heritage is also an important element in post-school education, such as in the Seychelles Tourism Academy where culinary and oral traditions and traditional knowledge are taught. This is an ongoing project and a committee has been established to consider how it could be extended.
Bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation takes the form of international research cooperation with agencies from the USA, France, the UK, Mauritius, Germany, Italy, Kenya and Madagascar. Also, the Seychelles Foreign Office is seeking partners for capacity building in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.