- Takes note that Malawi and Zimbabwe have nominated Art of crafting and playing Mbira/Sansi, the finger-plucking traditional musical instrument in Malawi and Zimbabwe (no. 01541) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
The art of crafting and playing Mbira/Sansi, the finger-plucking traditional musical instrument in Malawi and Zimbabwe, plays a key role in the communities concerned. The basic Mbira/Sansi instrument consists of a wooden board with metal keys attached on top, and the instrument is sometimes mounted on a calabash/wooden resonator. The metal keys are made from spoon handles, bicycle spokes or spring wire, and the keys are plucked using the thumbs or a combination of thumbs and fingers. The Mbira/Sansi produces a fluid percussive sound considered to be mystic, tranquil and enchanting. An important feature of the music is its cyclical nature, where each new repetition of a theme varies slightly from the last and incorporates numerous interwoven melodies. The instrument can be played on its own or with multiple instruments in a group. Traditionally, transmission has occurred through apprenticeship within the family circle. Today, however, transmission also takes place through formal coaching, and Mbira/Sansi making and playing is taught in some schools. The songs contain important messages, with some guarding children against bad behaviour while others condemn negative behaviour in the community for example. The music is also used to communicate information about events that happened in the past. Wherever and whenever it is played, the Mbira/Sansi instrument acts as a ‘weapon’ for condemning violence and other societal ills.
- Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
R.1: In Malawi, the bearers and practitioners of Mbira/Sansi are primarily the Chewa and Mang'anja of the Central and Southern Regions of Malawi. In Zimbabwe, the bearers and practitioners are primarily the Shona, but other ethnic groups – including the BaTonga, Venda and Kalanga – also play the instrument. The nomination file presents the social functions and cultural meanings of the element and how the related knowledge and skills are transmitted nowadays. The information shows that the practice is compatible with existing international human rights and with requirements of mutual respect among communities and sustainable development.
R.2: The States Parties have demonstrated that the inscription of the element would contribute to ensuring the visibility and awareness of the significance of intangible cultural heritage in general. The file foresees that the implementation of the safeguarding measures would increase the visibility both of the element and of intangible cultural heritage in general. The inscription would encourage dialogue about elements of living heritage in both States, as well as foster networking and the sharing of experiences about the safeguarding of these elements and other cross-border ones. The inscription of the element would also contribute to strengthening the variety of music genres and styles in the world, thus creating fertile ground for human creativity and respect for cultural diversity.
R.5: In Malawi, the element was listed in the Inventory of Malawi's Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011; the organization responsible for maintaining the inventory is the Department of Museums and Monuments. The inventory is updated every five years by the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee, with the full participation of the community concerned. In Zimbabwe, the element Mbira/Sansi is listed in Zimbabwe's ICH Provisional List Volume 1 from 2016. The list is maintained by the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Department of Arts and Culture. The responsibility for updating the inventory lies with the Department of Arts and Culture. The inventory is updated every five years.
- Further considers that, on the basis of the information included in the file and the information provided by the submitting States through the dialogue process, the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are satisfied:
R.3: The safeguarding measures reflect the practice of the element as part of the traditional and contemporary culture in the territories of both States. Continuous transmission is ensured by the tradition bearers as well as in a semi-formal and academic environment. The safeguarding measures are aimed at improving the documentation, promotion and enhanced transmission of Mbira/Sansi music. Particular attention is paid to the improvement of legal frameworks for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in both States, and the governments of both States and various research institutes are involved in the safeguarding of the element.
R.4: In both Malawi and Zimbabwe, information on the element was collected during inventorying meetings and workshops. Local experts participated in the meetings and provided information on the element. Both States Parties have demonstrated the process of building community participation and consent in their respective contexts, where the Chiefs, besides being custodians of culture, are also regarded as representatives of the people.
Decides to inscribe Art of crafting and playing Mbira/Sansi, the finger-plucking traditional musical instrument in Malawi and Zimbabwe on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
Commends the States Parties for the submission of an improved file following the decision of the Committee to refer the nomination in 2018;
Encourages the States Parties to ensure the primary role of the communities, groups and individuals concerned throughout all stages of the nomination process and to avoid top-down approaches in all stages of the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage by ensuring that the communities concerned are at the center of all safeguarding efforts;
Invites the States Parties to take particular heed of the impact of increased, undue tourism on the safeguarding of the element in order to prevent its potential de-contextualization.