Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 16.COM 8.B.37

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Seychelles has nominated Moutya (no. 01690) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

         Moutya was brought to Seychelles by the enslaved Africans who arrived with the French settlers in the early eighteenth century. They used to practise this dance at night in the forest, at a distance from the plantation house where their masters lived. Historically, Moutya was a psychological comfort against hardship and poverty and a means of resisting servitude and social injustice. A sensual dance with simple choreography, it is traditionally performed around a bonfire. The musical instrument used is a large drum with a narrow rim made of goat hide which is played mostly by men. The dance begins with the heating of the drums over a bonfire. Once the drums have been warmed, the drummers set the beat and men in the crowd call out various themes, usually social commentaries, to which the female dancers respond in high-pitched tones. The men and women begin to dance to a moderate tempo involving hip-swaying and feet-shuffling. The dancers come close, but do not physically touch. Moutya continues to be a form of expression of cultural identity to this day, retaining its traditional dance form. It is usually performed spontaneously within the community, as well as at social gatherings and cultural events. Moutya is transmitted informally through performance, observation and imitation and formally through research, documentation and dissemination.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, and the information provided by the submitting State through the dialogue process, 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 nocturnal dance performed spontaneously in open, outdoor spaces around a bonfire. It may be performed after payday, at social gatherings and at national and cultural events. There are ten active Moutya groups and eighty-four practitioners on three main islands. The element is transmitted formally through research, documentation and dissemination through the National Archives, national museums, the Creole Institute, the Seychelles Heritage Foundation and the National History Museum. It is transmitted informally through performance, observation and imitation. Some schools teach Moutya as an extra-curricular activity. It is a socially inclusive form of entertainment and a means of social expression that reinforces Seychellois cultural identity and historical records.

R.2:  The awareness generated during the nomination process would be enhanced and create a sense of pride about the element and intangible cultural heritage in general. It would also contribute to social cohesion and bring recognition and greater appreciation for the practitioners and bearers. At the national level, awareness about the 2003 Convention and listing mechanisms would be enhanced. At the international level, it would increase the representation of intangible cultural heritage of African origin-related to the history of slavery. Inscription would serve as an example of the revival of heritage that has been oppressed. Dialogue among communities, groups and individuals will be encouraged through cultural exchanges between researchers, artists and other resource persons within creole communities in Seychelles and other countries in the region. Human creativity and respect for cultural diversity will be promoted through the spontaneous performances and the crafting of the Moutya drums.

R.3: Past and current safeguarding measures include: drumming classes for children and young adults; research, documentation, publication, workshops and inventories related to the element; the repeal of the Drums Regulations of 1935, which prohibited drum playing past 9 p.m.; and the revision of the National Cultural Policy to address issues regarding commercialization and decontextualization. A variety of safeguarding measures are proposed, such as developing guidelines for drum-making, drumming and singing. A notable measure is the facilitation of cultural exchanges between Seychellois practitioners and knowledge bearers and those practitioners of similar elements in other countries. A national committee that includes community representatives, practitioners and knowledge-bearers have developed a three-year action plan to implement the proposed safeguarding measures.

R.4: The community has been involved in the nomination process through various meetings, workshops, focus group discussions, seasonal performances and interviews conducted by the drafting team comprised of heritage and culture professionals. Letters of consent were signed by various persons of different ages and backgrounds within the community. Particular attention was paid to the participation of people of all genders. There are currently no customary restrictions governing access to the element.

R.5: The element is listed on the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Seychelles: The Seychellois Creole Community, which is administered by the National Heritage Research and Protection Section (NHRPS) of the Department of Culture. The element has been included on the national inventory since November 2010. The inventories are regularly updated by collecting additional information in the community, revising information on existing elements to reflect changes, and adding new elements. The last inventory update concerning the element was in December 2019.

  1. Decides to inscribe Moutya on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for its first inscription and for the submission of an improved file following the decision of the Committee to refer the nomination in 2019.