Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 9.COM 9.A.8

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has nominated Mapoyo oral tradition and its symbolic reference points within their ancestral territory (No. 00983) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

The oral tradition of the Mapoyo and its symbolic points of reference within the ancestral territory encompass a body of narratives that constitute the collective memory of the Mapoyo people. It is symbolically and permanently linked to a number of places located within the ancestral territory of the community along the Orinoco River in Venezuelan Guayana. Tradition bearers recount the narratives while carrying out their daily activities. The symbolic space that results from this interaction has served as a point of reference for a living history, connecting the Mapoyo to their past and their territory. The tradition touches on the social structure, knowledge, cosmogony and stories that have made the Mapoyo legitimate participants in the birth of Venezuela as a republic. Community elders are currently the main keepers of the oral traditions of the Mapoyo and their symbolism. However, various factors are endangering transmission to newer generations. These include the increasing outward migration of young people looking for better economic and educational opportunities, land encroachment caused by the mining industry, and the exposure of young people to formal public education that discourages the use of the Mapoyo language.

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

U.1:   Mapoyo oral tradition and its territorial reference points are linked to the cultural identity of the Mapoyo people, creating a web of relations between people and their environment and promoting social harmony and cohesion;

U.2:   Despite the efforts of the communities, the viability of the proposed element is threatened due to factors such as the decreased use of Mapoyo language in favour of Spanish, inward migration, land encroachment caused by the mining industry and infrastructure development;

U.3:   Building on the past and current initiatives, the proposed safeguarding measures initiated by the community, academic institutions and national authorities are designed not only to enhance visibility and ensure transmission of the element but also to protect the environment in which the practices take place; they are accompanied by a coherent and realistic timetable, with the role of each stakeholder and funding resources clearly defined;

U.4:   The nomination was elaborated with full participation of members of the Mapoyo community; evidence of their free, prior and informed consent is provided;

U.5:   Mapoyo oral tradition and its symbolic reference points within their ancestral territory were included in 2012 in the National Inventory of Venezuela and in the Cultural Heritage Registration System of Venezuela, both managed by the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Venezuela.

  1. Inscribes Mapoyo oral tradition and its symbolic reference points within their ancestral territory on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Appreciates the efforts of the State Party in safeguarding the living heritage of a small rural community under social and economic stress;
  3. Notes with interest that the nomination puts forward an example of intangible cultural heritage that addresses the links between culture and nature;
  4. Commends the State Party for submitting a nomination that demonstrates the important role that intangible cultural heritage can play in sustainable development, intercultural dialogue and the protection of human rights;
  5. Encourages the State Party to ensure that the safeguarding measures respect customary restrictions on the sacred and secret aspects of the element.