Having ratified the 2003 Convention in 2004, the current report is the second one submitted by Mauritius on its implementation at the national level. The National Heritage Fund (NHF) Act of 2003 was reviewed and is now in line with the 2003 Convention and the Creative Mauritius - Vision 2025 policy recognizes the potential of intangible cultural heritage in cultural industries. The National Heritage Fund (NHF), under the Ministry of Arts and Culture (MAC), is the competent body for coordinating implementation actions for the safeguarding of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. It works in close collaboration with communities and NGOs and other bodies such as the Nelson Mandela Centre for African Culture (NMCAC) and the Trust Funds that manage World Heritage Properties. The NHF is in the process of reviewing its legal framework to domesticate intangible cultural heritage in the Mauritian legal system. Other bodies established in cooperation with the various Mauritian communities include Cultural Centres for each community supported financially by the MAC, language unions (Creole Speaking Union), community organizations, the University of Mauritius, the Mauritius Rights Management Society (MRMS) and the Commission for Arts, Culture and Others (CACO) of the island of Rodrigues.
Since ratifying the Convention, the Government has created and/or strengthened institutions for training and has supported community institutions that provide training in specific elements (Sega Tipik performance and ravann making). The University of Mauritius offers master’s degree courses in Heritage Management and an undergraduate course on Cultural and Heritage Tourism, including the management of intangible cultural heritage.
With regard to documentation, the National Archives has a digitalized system of all its documentation that covers intangible cultural heritage, including audiovisual materials, and the National library holds extensive documentation on intangible cultural heritage. Cultural Centres work with the NHF to document their intangible cultural heritage and this is subsequently incorporated into the national inventory. In addition, the NMCAC has a library, and a research and documentation centre. In the island of Rodrigues, CACO has set up an archive and documentation centre within the National Library in Port Mathurin where communities can access information, while Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund (AGTF) carries out documentation and has a rich archive on practices such as Geet Gewai. These collections are generally freely accessible to the public.
The NHF has developed a National Inventory of its elements since 2013 in collaboration with communities, NGOs, higher education institutions, NMCAC, the Cultural Centres, the Speaking Unions and the institutions managing the two World Heritage Properties. The NHF hosts an inventory of 117 elements of intangible cultural heritage from the different communities of Mauritius. There are also other subsidiary inventories compiled and maintained by institutions and associations. The National Inventory is organized along territorial principles (location on the various islands) and according to the five domains of the 2003 Convention, although this approach is under review. The National Inventory takes into account the viability of the intangible cultural heritage and some of the elements inscribed are threatened and may require urgent safeguarding. Updating the Inventory is a continuous process carried out under the scrutiny of the NHF. The inventoried elements are gathered through workshops and working sessions with communities, through associations developing their own inventories and also through researchers from the various institutions engaging with communities and collecting information. Although initially led by academics, it is planned that communities will play a primary role in inventory-making, and they are now being given guidance in this process. For these inventories, the free, prior and informed consent of the communities concerned has been obtained for the inclusion of their elements. NGOs have been involved from the beginning as part of communities as well as individual entities.
As part of its safeguarding measures, the MAC has instituted concerts, workshops and competitions at all levels and supported scientific, technical and artistic studies for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, in partnership with other bodies. Activities undertaken include organizing exhibitions, concerts and other awareness-raising activities. Festivals provide visibility for intangible cultural heritage and help create networks and partnerships between artists, State Parties and organizations. The Mauritius Rights Management Society protects the Intellectual Property (IP) rights of artists. Many activities have been and continue to be carried out by communities, State Party-supported institutions, NGOs, community groups, individual artists and other organizations as part of providing access to intangible cultural heritage. The NMCAC promotes elements associated with African Culture and traditional knowledge systems related to craftsmanship (with youth and artists in the production of wooden sculptures). Mauritius has legally recognized and provided protection to sites of memory associated with intangible cultural heritage of its multiple communities. The management bodies for the two World Heritage properties in Mauritius (Le Morne Cultural landscape and Aapravasi Ghat) also safeguard the intangible cultural heritage associated with them, holding workshops with local artists and documenting music, dance, culinary practices, crafts skills, traditional games, storytelling and dress heritage, for example. In Rodrigues Island, CACO and the Commission for Tourism work closely with the communities to safeguard and promote intangible cultural heritage through festivals, performances and cuisine, arts and craft fairs. Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation and other TV channels have also been showcasing intangible cultural heritage.
The University of Mauritius provides educational programmes through its curriculum development, teaching and general capacity building of heritage professionals. This includes both Bachelors (BA) and master’s degrees (MA) where intangible cultural heritage has been identified and incorporated into the teaching curriculum. All eight MA graduates are employed in heritage institutions that also safeguard and promote intangible cultural heritage. The Mahatma Gandhi Institute (MGI) also engages in teaching about intangible cultural heritage and runs a museum of Indian Folklore to safeguard the intangible cultural heritage of Indian origins. In addition, much transmission takes place through informal practices from mother to daughter, father to son and elders to youth. Groups of artists also transmit their art through practice and performances in community centres, hotels, family gatherings, beaches etc. The Bhojpuri Speaking Union (BSU), along with the community, set up the Geet-Gawai school that has subsequently inspired the opening of thirteen more such schools across the country. In Rodrigues, numerous groups have emerged based around community centres that are promoting intangible cultural heritage through music, culinary practices and crafts. Individuals also train the public in their elements, through informal schooling at their home, free of charge. Furthermore, groups in Rodrigues have set up training facilities for the youth while CACO works with elders providing training in tambour making and transferring their knowledge to youth.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, Mauritius has cultural cooperation agreements with its neighbouring countries (Seychelles, Madagascar, Mozambique and India) that share common cultural values, historical experiences and intangible cultural heritage, such as the Creole language and Sega music. They have developed various programmes to exchange information on promoting and safeguarding their intangible cultural heritage. The annual cultural ‘Festival International Kreol’ brings together the Indian Ocean sub-region and the Caribbean Islands, etc. Seychelles and Réunion (France) have also established regional festivals in which Mauritian artists participate. Mauritius provides funding to artists participating in both national and regional performances/festivals through Artists’ Assistance Scheme (AAS). A close network has been developed not only between Mauritius and other State Parties but also between the artists and performers within the region and beyond. Mauritius has signed a number of agreements for cultural exchange programmes that facilitate the free exchange of artists with other countries. There is also an emerging network of professionals as well as communities, brought together by international conferences held by UoM, AGTF and Le Morne in 2011, 2014 and 2015 on indentured labour and slavery. Mauritius hosts the formation of the Indenture Labour Route project adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference, involving countries with this shared history. This has also created networks between professionals, government bodies and the general public.
Mauritius has two elements inscribed on the Representative List, namely Traditional Mauritian Sega (inscribed in 2014 and included in the current report) and the Bhojpuri Folk Songs in Mauritius, Geet Gawai (inscribed in 2016 and which will be therefore included in the next report).