- Takes note that Nigeria has nominated Sango festival, Oyo (no. 01617) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
The Sango Festival of Oyo marks the beginning of the Yoruba Traditional New Year in August. It is an ancestral worship that takes place in Sango, Nigeria, near the ancient Koso Temple. The ten-day festival is strongly connected to the social, religious, cultural and political institutions of the Oyo State. It is held in commemoration of Tella-Oko, the Third Alaafin, or king, of the Oyo Empire. He is believed to be the incarnation of the mythical Sango, the Yoruba Orisa divinity of thunder and lightning. During the festival, followers eat roasted new yam, plait their hair and wear red clothing and white and red beads around their necks and wrists. Festivities involve several rites, as well as dancing, praise singing and drumming, which the Alaafin views from his court. On the last day, the chief priest leaves his house to embody the ancestral Sango. Followers offer him gifts and place petitions to him for solutions. The Sango performs for the crowd and leads the procession to the palace. The king exits the palace before the Sango’s arrival, and the Sango then enters the palace and reigns as the king of Oyo on that day, praying for the good of the Oyo community. Knowledge and skills related to the festival are passed on from generation to generation through the lived practice of the festival, as well as at the Sango Temple and the Palace.
- Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:
R.1: The festival encompasses diverse socio-cultural practices in the Oyo community and marks the beginning of the Yoruba Traditional New Year. Sango devotees perform a number of activities associated with food, attire, rituals, dancing, praise-singing and drumming and which are manifestations of the community’s cultural values. The central role is played by the Alaafin of Oyo, who is the custodian and guardian of Yoruba Culture, and is supported by a number of other persons with distinct roles throughout the festival. Knowledge and skills are transferred from generation to generation through the lived practice of the culture, with adults passing on their knowledge to younger generations primarily at the Sango Temple and at the Palace. The festival serves to unite the community and is used to develop strategies for socio-cultural interaction and economic development for the Yoruba traditional new year. It represents the connection to the ancestral world and reaffirms the spiritual power of the throne of Oyo.
R.4: The file establishes the participation of the community in the nomination process and explains how the structure of consent within the community (which entails speaking to the Alaafin of Oyo as its first authority and then to the Shango devotees) was upheld. The letters of free, prior and informed consent pertain directly to the nomination and account for various actors in the element. The file also demonstrates that respect for customary practices governing access to particular spaces associated with the element was also upheld.
R.5: The element was identified and documented between 2015 and 2016 and included in the inventories in 2016 and 2017. The Inventory of Nigeria Cultural Resources that is managed by the UNESCO Division within the International Cultural Relations Department of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture is updated periodically when officials are invited to attend planned activities, while the Inventory of Oyo Intangible Cultural Heritage is updated by officials within the palace who were trained by UNESCO and who also update the information on the Alaafin’s website.
- Further considers that the information included in the file is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are satisfied:
R.2: The nomination does not provide sufficient information about enhancing the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general. Rather, it explains how inscription would enhance visibility of the element and stimulate dialogue among communities, groups and individuals connected with the element. The file explains how different creative products are used in the festival. However, there is insufficient information about how inscription would enhance human creativity and cultural diversity.
R.3: The file does not propose a clear set of safeguarding measures, nor does it explain how communities were involved in developing safeguarding measures. The file also does not provide sufficient information about possible threats to the element nor about future safeguarding measures corresponding to the threats. The information mainly focuses on the responsibility of the State that commits continued financial, policy and administrative support. The communities themselves play an integral role in ensuring the vitality and continuity of the element.
- Decides to refer the nomination of Sango festival, Oyo to the submitting State Party and invites it to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;
- Commends the State Party for its strong demonstration of upholding respect for customary practices governing access to the element;
- Encourages the State Party, when submitting nomination files in the future, to avoid using standardized letters of consent and encourage the widest possible involvement of the communities concerned.