Decisión del Comité intergubernamental: 15.COM 8.c.2

The Committee

  1. Takes note that France has proposed The Martinique yole, from construction to sailing practices, a model for heritage safeguarding (no. 01582) for selection and promotion by the Committee as a programme, project or activity best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention:

Created several centuries ago, the Martinique yole reflects the importance of traditional boats in the history of the region. A yole is a light, fast, shallow-draught boat with a tapered shape, which can sail with one or two sails. Crew members must perch off the hull on long movable poles to balance the boat, requiring great agility, physical engagement and perfect coordination. Yoles are built in different shapes depending on their uses and the geographical areas concerned; the Martinique yole used by fishers is ideal for the specific conditions along the island’s coasts. During the 1950s and 1960s, other types of boats made of composites and equipped with motors gradually supplanted the traditional yole. Faced with the threat of disappearance of these boats, which reflected the history and society of the island, a spontaneous movement to safeguard them developed. The safeguarding initiatives originated with races organized by the fishers themselves. Over the years, the safeguarding programme has gradually expanded, and is now supported by a broad range of longstanding associations and partnerships. This has resulted in a number of good practices. The main objectives of the safeguarding programme are to: preserve the know-how of local boat builders; transmit know-how on sailing; strengthen the ties between yole practitioners and the local community; and create a federation capable of organizing major events.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file and the information provided by the submitting State through the dialogue process, the programme responds as follows to the criteria for selection as a good safeguarding practice set out in paragraph 7 of the Operational Directives:

P.1:   The activities for safeguarding the yole described in the file originated with the races organized by the fishers themselves, which took the form of challenges between boats as they returned from fishing. The proposal states that conditions favourable to safeguarding yole sailing have been established, supported by multiple stakeholders working in their specific areas of expertise. The proposal includes safeguarding measures in four areas: construction; sailing; specialized publications; and awareness-raising among the general public.

P.2:   Martinique yoles reflect the cultural wealth of the Caribbean in all its components and the importance of traditional boats in the history of the region. The safeguarding and revitalization of the boats has been ensured through the coordination between different local and national actors. The ‘Fédération des Yoles Rondes de la Martinique’ plays an important role in this regard, carrying out mandates related to the practice, development and democratization of the practice at the local, regional, national and international levels. Exchanges within the context of partnerships with other Caribbean islands also present an opportunity for regional coordination.

P.3:   The project reflects the principles of the Convention in relation to dialogue within the community of inhabitants by highlighting the key position of the craftspersons and sailors in the small ports of the island who possess the know-how related to the element and are respected for it. This key position helps to further strengthen the cohesion between generations and the transmission of the element. Concerning cultural diversity, the project provides opportunities for contacts with neighbouring countries, transcending differences in people’s social backgrounds and origins.

P.4:   The State Party has convincingly demonstrated the effectiveness of the safeguarding actions for ensuring the revitalization and viability of the yole. The safeguarding associations concerned have established a network of different actors and parties who support actions related to the transmission of the associated knowledge and ensure the promotion and viability of the practice at the local level as well as its recognition at the international level. However, the file does not reflect on the possible threats and risks to be assessed in relation to the increased visibility and widespread popularity of the yole.

P.5:   The State Party has satisfactorily demonstrated the participation of the communities, groups and individuals concerned throughout the establishment of the revitalization programme. The proposal states that all components of the local community have been mobilized in the safeguarding of the Martinique yole. Initially, transmission was carried out informally by fishers and boat-builders for people interested in yoles. Volunteers from residents’ associations then organized the Sunday races and provided training for the crews. The proposal further states that the associations, headed and run by the practitioners themselves, remain the driving force behind the safeguarding process.

P.6:   The State Party has convincingly described how the yole safeguarding model could become an example for safeguarding similar practices on a regional scale. The model serves as a source of inspiration in the following areas: implementing grassroot activities; being association-based, transposable and operating on a human scale; relying on non-formal education; presenting living and evolving heritage with new materials; and complying with sustainable development requirements. However, a fundamental characteristic of this model is the strong involvement of local associations, as well as the willingness to contribute of municipal authorities and other parties concerned; the replicability of the programme in other countries and regions largely depends on their political and administrative context.

P.7:   The community has demonstrated its commitment to sharing these safeguarding practices with other communities through: residences of expert craftspeople; exchanges among young people; exchanges among adult practitioners (through the training of partner association leaders); cultural actions; cooperation among universities; and the expansion of communities of interest.

P.8:   The State Party has provided sufficient information on the procedures for evaluating the actions put in place to safeguard and revitalize the yole. The type of evaluation proposed is both quantitative and qualitative, which makes it possible to monitor the actions of associations (for instance, the ‘Fédération des Yoles Rondes’ compiles annual reports), the engagement of partners (namely, government-level reporting), the transmission of knowledge related to the element (literature review), and the impacts of central revitalization activities such as competitions.

P.9:   The safeguarding model adopted in the programme could become a working model for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in developing countries. However, the success of this model would depend on the commitment of the communities, groups and individuals concerned and on their ability to arouse the interest of other people, especially institutions, whose support has been fundamental in Martinique. This model does not require costly investments; it merely requires access to materials to build the boats.

  1. Decides to select The Martinique yole, from construction to sailing practices, a model for heritage safeguarding as a programme, project or activity best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention;

  2. Invites the State Party to take particular heed of the impact of increased, undue tourism on the safeguarding of the element in order to prevent its potential decontextualization;

  3. Recalls the importance of using vocabulary appropriate to the spirit of the Convention and of avoiding expressions such as ‘unique heritage’;

  4. Further recalls the importance for the State Party, when submitting nomination files in the future, to ensure that all nomination documents, including letters of consent, refer to the correct listing mechanism under the 2003 Convention;

  5. Encourages the State Party, when submitting files in the future, to avoid standardized letters of consent.