- Takes note that Botswana has nominated Seperu folk dance, associated traditions and practices of the Basubiya community in Botswana’s Chobe District (No. 00902) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:
The Seperu folk dance is a vital part of Basubiya traditions and practices. It features prominently during girls’ initiation ceremonies, the coronation of Basubiya chiefs, wedding ceremonies and other festivities. During performances, the male dancer leads a succession of pairs of women dancers while he waves a fly whisk to direct his partners’ movements. The female dancers take turns, each displaying her range of skills. The distinguishing feature is the woman’s dress made of eight pieces of skirt: this rises into the shape of a peacock’s tail as the dancers move slowly back and forth, gently moving their waists and shaking their shoulders. A group of vocalists encircles the dancers, singing and clapping throughout the performance. Most practitioners are aged between 50 and 70 and only dance on a part-time basis. The skills and knowledge are transmitted orally and through observation to immediate family members; however, enactment is declining. The few active practitioners are mainly elderly women – there are only twenty-five active male participants. Moreover, young people’s lack of interest in learning the dance and their migration for employment have resulted in a significant drop in transmission.
- Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List:
U.2: The dance is in need of urgent safeguarding because its active practitioners are all elderly; the diminishing participation of men and the disinterest of young people in learning the dance movements present threats to its viability;
U.5: During a community-based inventorying project launched in July 2011, Seperu folk dance was included in the Chobe District Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements, to be updated by the Basubiya community in collaboration with the District Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee and the Department of Arts and Culture;
- Further decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination does not satisfy the following criteria for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List:
U.1: The characteristics of the Seperu dance and the practices and traditions associated with it are not clearly described and there is need for more details concerning the nature of the songs and lyrics as well as the symbolism of its choreography and costume to define the social and educational functions and cultural meanings of the element; a number of assertions are not substantiated;
U.3: The proposed safeguarding measures such as the creation of cultural festivals or derivative products do not respond adequately to the apparent threats facing the element, particularly as regards the need to strengthen transmission, and other measures to encourage its continued practice in its traditional context are lacking; the measures are vague and top-down, lacking details to demonstrate how they will be achieved and how they will benefit the element and the community; the budget does not seem feasible and funding sources are not identified, nor is a calendar proposed; moreover, some measures are identical to those in another file and do not seem to reflect the specific situation and requirements of the element;
U.4: Although the nomination mentions the involvement of various parties concerned in the preparation of the nomination, it lacks information concerning the community’s actual participation beyond attending workshops and consenting to the nomination;
- Decides not to inscribe Seperu folk dance, associated traditions and practices of the Basubiya community in Botswana’s Chobe District on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
- Takes note with appreciation of the State Party’s concern for a rural community under economic stress and its commitment to strengthening the practice of its intangible cultural heritage by youth;
- Encourages the State Party, if it wishes to resubmit a nomination, to provide an accurate and detailed description of the element that fully takes account of its musical and poetic aspects and of the ‘associated traditions and practices’ that appear in its title;
- Reminds the State Party that the nomination must clearly explain the social functions and cultural meanings of the element for the Busubiya community, as well as explain more specifically the threats to the element;
- Recommends the State Party to propose a feasible safeguarding plan that addresses specific threats and can produce concrete results through detailed activities, with a clear timetable and realistic budget that outlines sources of funding including in-kind support;
- Recalls that each element requires its own specific safeguarding measures guided by the community and responsive to its needs and that generic measures common to multiple nominations cannot suffice.