Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 9.COM 9.A.5

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Kenya has nominated Isukuti dance of Isukha and Idakho communities of Western Kenya (No. 00981) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

  2. The Isukuti dance is a traditional celebratory performance practised among the Isukha and Idakho communities of Western Kenya. It takes the form of a fast-paced, energetic and passionate dance accompanied by drumming and singing. An integral tool for cultural transmission and harmonious coexistence between families and communities, it permeates most occasions and stages in life including childbirths, initiations, weddings, funerals, commemorations, inaugurations, religious festivities, sporting events and other public congregations. The dance derives its name from the drums used in the performance, played in sets of three – a big, medium and small drum – and normally accompanied by an antelope horn and assorted metal rattles. A soloist leads the dance, singing thematic texts in tandem with the rhythm of the drumbeats and the steps of the dancers, arranged in separate rows for men and women. Transmission of Isukuti dance is presently weakening and the frequency of performance is diminishing. Many bearers are elderly and lack successors to whom they can pass on their knowledge. Lack of funds and the necessary materials to make the instruments and costumes also present an obstacle. Finally, many composers prefer to work in more commercial genres, and audiences frequently substitute contemporary entertainment for traditional Isukuti dances.
  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Urgent Safeguarding List:

  2. U.1:   An integral part of the social fabric of the Isukha and Idahko communities of Western Kenya, Isukuti dance is transmitted intergenerationally within families and serves not only as a recreation, but also as a promoter of mutual respect and harmonious coexistence among communities;
    U.2:   The viability of the core values of the Isukuti dance is threatened by the decreasing number of tradition bearers, in particular among young people who identify less and less with Isukuti, the lack of raw materials needed for producing costumes and musical instruments, the calendars of school and work that conflict with the learning of the dance, and urbanization and population growth that have impinged upon traditional performing spaces;
    U.3:   Past and present safeguarding measures respond to the identified threats; the safeguarding measures proposed include documentation and dissemination of materials on Isukuti, organization of seminars and training sessions for trainers, incorporation of the dance within the educational system, revitalization of drum production, including the establishment of nurseries of indigenous tree species, and construction of a cultural centre;
    U.4:   The nomination benefited from the active participation of the communities and their cooperation with the State; free, prior and informed consent to the nomination was provided by the communities, as well as by groups and individuals concerned;
    U.5:   With the involvement of the communities concerned, Isukuti dance was included in 2008 in the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Kenya, administered by the Department of Culture of the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts.
  1. Inscribes Isukuti dance of Isukha and Idakho communities of Western Kenya on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Commends the State Party for its attention to an element that may promote mutual respect and cultural diversity;
  3. Further commends the State Party for re-submitting the nomination to the Urgent Safeguarding List, demonstrating the wide and active participation of the communities, groups and individuals concerned in the entire process;
  4. Encourages the State Party to maintain an appropriate balance among the safeguarding measures and to ensure the widest possible participation in their implementation by communities concerned.