Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 9.COM 10.26

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Malawi has nominated Tchopa, sacrificial dance of the Lhomwe people of southern Malawi (No. 00999) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Tchopa is a performing art practised among Lhomwe communities in southern Malawi. The dance is usually performed during celebrations after good harvests and successful hunting trips and during offerings to ancestral spirits after calamities such as droughts and outbreaks of disease. Tchopa entails knowledge of particular dancing skills and singing, and employs three different sizes of drums. Twenty to thirty dancers perform in a circle while criss-crossing each other. Some dancers carry packs on their backs holding farming tools, animal skins, puppets, hunting gear and old kitchen utensils. Each village headman has a small group of Tchopa dancers. Although primarily performed by older Lhomwe men and women, who function as the bearers and practitioners and principal custodians, Tchopa is now also increasingly performed by children. Knowledge and skills for the dance are transmitted during practice sessions and occasional performances. Other key roles among the group include the makers of dancing costumes and drums, drummers, whistlers and dancers. Tchopa dance strengthens social cohesion among Lhomwe communities with members providing mutual support in times of need, such as during ill health and bereavement, and coming to the assistance of overburdened practitioners by providing communal labour in the field.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List:

R.1:   Tchopa sacrificial dance is performed to celebrate good harvests and successful hunting trips, or at times of drought or disease, thereby providing the Lhomwe community with a sense of identity while promoting social cohesion and spiritual life;

R.2:   Inscription of Tchopa on the Representative List could increase the visibility of intangible cultural heritage and promote awareness of the importance of social cohesion between individuals and ethnic communities, while underlining the importance of respecting spiritual ancestors, and promoting human creativity;

R.3:   Safeguarding measures aim at supporting transmission and promotion of Tchopa in communities and include training, documentation, research, publications and awareness-raising campaigns; they will be implemented by local foundations, cultural centres, non-governmental organizations, media and governmental educational and cultural institutions;

R.4:   The nomination was elaborated with the participation of Lhomwe communities, traditional authorities and associations who provided their free, prior and informed consent;

R.5:   The element was included on the Inventory of Malawi’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010, maintained and updated by the Department of Culture through the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee in collaboration with the Malawi National Commission for UNESCO.

  1. Inscribes Tchopa, sacrificial dance of the Lhomwe people of southern Malawi on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.