Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.8

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Côte d’Ivoire has nominated Zaouli, popular music and dance of the Guro communities in Côte d’Ivoire (No. 01255) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Zaouli is a popular music and dance practised by the Guro communities of the Bouaflé and Zuénoula departments of Côte d’Ivoire. A homage to feminine beauty, Zaouli is inspired by two masks: the Blou and the Djela. Its other name, Djela lou Zaouli means Zaouli, the daughter of Djela. In a single event, the practice brings together sculpture (the mask), weaving (the costume), music (the band and song) and dance. There are seven types of Zaouli masks, each translating a specific legend. The bearers and practitioners include sculptors, craftspeople, instrumentalists, singers, dancers and the notables (the guarantors of the community’s customs and traditions). Zaouli plays an educational, playful and aesthetic role, contributes to environmental preservation, conveys the cultural identity of its bearers and promotes integration and social cohesion. Transmission occurs during musical performances and learning sessions, when amateurs learn under the supervision of experienced practitioners. The viability of Zaouli is ensured through popular performances organized two or three times a week by the communities. The traditional chiefdom, the guarantor of traditions, also plays a key role in the transmission process and inter-village dance competitions and festivals offer further opportunities for revitalization. Research and documentation activities are also underway.

  1. Decides 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:   The element is a traditional performing art that was originally practised on festive occasions only, but which is now also practised during funerals. The bearers and practitioners are clearly identified and the responsibility of the traditional authorities with regard to the element is indicated. Transmission occurs through learning sessions and by means of observation and imitation during performances. The file demonstrates that the element plays an important role in education, conveys a sense of beauty, strengthens gender relationships and social integration, provides a form of entertainment and plays an environmental role.

R.2:   The inscription of the element would promote all the cultural practices and expressions related to the element and contribute to dialogue and social communication between the communities of the Guro region, at the national and international levels. Its inscription would also contribute to raising international awareness of the importance of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue and create a favourable environment for the blossoming of talents and human creativity.

R.3:   The viability of Zaouli is enhanced through the identification of talented performers during popular performances and their continued learning under experienced practitioners. Despite the limited resources available from the State for implementing a safeguarding policy, inter-village dance competitions and festivals are organized, and Zaouli is also part of celebrations at the national level. The Guro communities have been at the centre of all the initiatives and will be involved through the chiefdoms, community or village organizations and associations. The safeguarding measures proposed comprise a plan focused on inventorying and awareness-raising activities, the dissemination of documents, digitization efforts, scientific meetings and activities geared at the revitalization of handicrafts. To support the implementation of the safeguarding measures, Côte d’Ivoire plans to create a federation of Zaouli practitioners and a local management committee.

R.4:   The Guro communities that act as the bearers and practitioners of Zaouli were fully involved in all stages of the preparation of the nomination file through their spokespersons and representatives. The communities have given their free, prior and informed consent, as is attested to by the signatures that are formalized in a document attached to the nomination file. Their voluntary participation is demonstrated, including in the proposals for the safeguarding measures. The consent for the nomination was followed by a libation ceremony devoted to the ancestors. Both official and traditional authorities are represented in the process.

  1. Further decides that, on the basis of the information provided by the submitting State to the Committee at its present session concerning the extract from the inventory, the following criterion for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is satisfied:

R.5:   The element has been registered in the National Inventory of Cultural Heritage since 2016. The inventory is managed and regularly updated by the Ministry of Culture and Francophonie. The updating is carried out in collaboration with local communities, groups and associations. The description of the element, along with information on the relevant communities, locations and viability of the element are provided.

  1. Inscribes Zaouli, popular music and dance of the Guro communities in Côte d’Ivoire on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Invites the State Party to ensure that efforts to work with the communities, groups and individuals concerned with the element are carried out in close consultation and cooperation with them, and reminds it that top-down approaches that may unduly influence the traditional and spontaneous organization of the practice are not in line with the spirit of the Convention;
  3. Reminds the State Party that inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity does not automatically imply financial assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund, and that any requests for financial assistance to implement safeguarding measures should follow the due procedures outlined in the Operational Directives.