Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 14.COM 10.B.6

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Brazil has nominated Cultural Complex of Bumba-meu-boi from Maranhão (No. 01510) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Cultural Complex of Bumba-meu-boi from Maranhão is a ritualistic practice involving forms of musical, choreographic, performing and ludic expression, in which the practitioners’ relationship with the sacred is mediated by the figure of the ox. The practice features certain key distinguishing elements: the cycle of life; the mystical-religious universe; and the ox itself. The practice is heavily charged with symbolism: by reproducing the cycle of birth, life and death, it offers a metaphor for human existence itself. There are similar forms of expression in other Brazilian states, but in Maranhão Bumba-meu-boi is distinguished by the various styles and groups it includes, as well as by the intrinsic relationship between faith, festivities and art. Each year, the Bumba groups from Maranhão reinvent this celebration, creating the songs, comedies, the embroideries on the ox leather and the performers’ costumes. Divided into five main ‘accents’ with particular features, the groups, albeit diverse, share a yearly calendar of performances and festivities. The festival cycle – which reaches its peak at the end of June – may last for four to eight months, involving the following stages: rehearsals; the pre-season; baptisms; public performances or ‘brincadas’; and rituals around the ox’s death. The practice is a period of renovation during which energies are reinvigorated, and is transmitted through children’s groups, dance workshops, and spontaneously within the group.

  1. 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:   Cultural Complex of Bumba-meu-boi from Maranhão brings people together and strengthens their bonds, creating a shared identity for members of the community and promoting, during its cycle, an escape from daily life as experienced throughout the rest of the year. The element is an expression of popular culture, which embraces diversity in terms of race, gender and age, and is a good example of religious syncretism between Catholicism and traditions of African origin.

R.2:   The inscription of Bumba-meu-boi would contribute to ensuring the visibility of intangible cultural heritage and awareness of it by presenting to the world an example of the reverence practised for millennia by people from different regions of the world since the element carries universal meanings. It could therefore encourage the inscription of other similar celebrations worldwide. It would also establish a relationship with other elements already inscribed and promote dialogue between related communities, groups and individuals.

R.3:   To ensure the viability of the element, the related expertise is transmitted through the creation of children’s groups, the promotion of dance workshops, and by encouraging children and youngsters with the creation of conviviality spaces in schools or Boi rehearsals. The safeguarding measures proposed include: capacity-building initiatives for group leaders and representatives; heritage-related educational activities focused on the younger generations, communities, educational managers and schools; research and documentation; promotion workshops and publications. The State Party will support and coordinate the implementation of the safeguarding measures in a joint effort with the bearers, representatives of Bumba-meu-boi groups of various forms as well as representatives of public authorities and civil society entities committed to its safeguarding.

R.4:   Representatives of Bumba-meu-boi groups of various types were involved in the process of acknowledgement by the Brazilian State from the outset, through the creation of a working group. They have offered their consent to the inscription through video-recorded statements, in which they recognize the importance of international acknowledgement for the continuity of the practice of Bumba-meu-boi and reiterate their motivation and interest in having the element recognized as an example of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

R.5:   The element was included in the National Inventory of Cultural References (INRC) of Bumba-meu-boi from Maranhão for the first time in 2004; this was then updated in 2008. In the process of identifying and defining the element, the participation of the bearers was ensured through the creation, in 2007, of a Pro-Declaration Commission, which includes representatives of public authorities and of Bumba-meu-boi groups, elected in meetings held by the National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute.

  1. Decides to inscribe Cultural Complex of Bumba-meu-boi from Maranhão on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for providing evidence of community consent in a personalized rather than standardized format, notably through the use of video.