Comoros celebrates successful outcomes of UNESCO intangible cultural heritage project

Students learn about traditional pottery making at the closing ceremony for the UNESCO-ADTCA project to safeguard intangible cultural heritage ©UNESCO/Karalyn Monteil

On 21 November 2019 in Moroni, Union of Comoros, the Minister of Youth, Sports, Professional Insertion, Crafts, Arts and Culture, H.E. Mr. Nourdine Ben Ahmad alongside Mr. Moindjie Mohamed Moussa, Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Scientific Research, led the closing ceremony for the UNESCO "Capacity building project for the safeguarding of Comoros' intangible cultural heritage for sustainable development," which was carried-out over the past year and a half thanks to a generous contribution of 249,435 USD from the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority’s Funds-in-Trust to UNESCO.

“The project successfully strengthened national capacities to safeguard elements of Comoros’ intangible cultural heritage that reflect the expressions, representations, practices, knowledge and skills as the associated instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals, recognize as part of their cultural heritage and identity,” said Ms. Karalyn Monteil, Regional Advisor for Culture at UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, during her opening remarks at the closing ceremony.

The closing ceremony was held at the National Centre for Documentation and Scientific Research (CNDRS) in conjunction with their 40th anniversary celebrations, and included a photographic exhibition at the National Museum on Comoros intangible cultural heritage as well as an interactive video display of the 15 elements of intangible cultural heritage inventoried as part of the project. Live presentations of intangible cultural heritage practices were also demonstrated for school children and the general public during the closing ceremony event. The photography exhibition will remain on display in the National Museum in Moroni for the coming two months before travelling to Anjouan and Moheli to be exhibited for local populations on both islands. A brochure highlighting Comoros pilot inventory of intangible cultural heritage was also produced for the closing ceremony in order to further raise awareness of the project results.

The project focused on safeguarding Comoros intangible cultural heritage through documentation, research and awareness-raising as well as through the identification of ways and means to promote transmission of these elements from generation to generation. A first national inventory featuring 15 intangible cultural heritage elements representative of the Comoros was produced and published as part of the project. Various activities were carried out among communities across the country to raise awareness of Comoros intangible cultural heritage and the guidance of the UNESCO 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which was ratified by Comoros in 2013. The project also supported a review of the existing legislation for the protection and promotion of cultural heritage and proposed a legislative and institutional framework that takes into account the guidelines and high standards set forth in not only the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention but also in other UNESCO Conventions such as the 1972 World Heritage Convention and the 2005 Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. 

During his opening remarks, the Minister for Arts and Culture H.E. Mr. Nourdine Ben Ahmad expressed his personal commitment to ensuring the adoption of the heritage bill by the National Assembly during the 2019 sessions. Ms. Wahidat Hassani, Director-General for Arts and Culture, asserted that the next step for Comoros is to nominate one of the inventoried elements on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.