Minister Bah Launches Intangible Cultural Heritage Project

The Honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture Mr. Hamat N.K. Bah on Friday 1st April 2022 launched the project entitled: ‘Strengthening National Capacities for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) and Contributing to Sustainable Development in The Gambia 2022-2024’ at a ceremony held at the National Centre For Arts and Culture (NCAC) in Banjul.
The project funded by France’s earmarked contribution to the UNESCO ICH fund, is a 2-year project responds to the conclusions of a national needs assessment carried out in 2015, and gives continuity to recent steps taken by The Gambia for the safeguarding of its living heritage.
It comprises 7 trainings and workshops taking place in different regions of the country with the aim of building the capacities of government officials, civil society organisations and communities in 3 areas: Improving their knowledge of the 2003 Convention; learning methodologies for the creation of participatory community-based inventories to safeguard their ICH; and Elaborating ICH safeguarding plans.
By the end of the project, 2 main results are expected i.e; Gambian stakeholders are actively engaged in the safeguarding of their ICH, they have technical skills to implement the 2003 Convention and to transmit its basic principles throughout The Gambia; and Gambian authorities, communities and the general public are further aware of the significance and function of ICH.
This project will be implemented by UNESCO in partnership with the National Centre for Arts and Culture of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
Project Background and Context
Even prior to its ratification of the Convention, the country inscribed ‘Kankurang, Manding initiatory rite’ on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008 as part of a multinational nomination with Senegal. The Gambia also participated in the project ‘Action Plan for the Safeguarding of the Kankurang, Manding Initiatory Rite’ funded by the Japan Funds-in-Trust and implemented between 2006 and 2009. 
In the 1970s, The Gambia registered audio-visual data on folklore expressions and oral traditions that are archived in the Research and Documentation Division within the National Directorate for cultural heritage of the NCAC. Over the past years, the country has organized cultural activities promoting some expressions of living heritage, including the cooperation with Senegal for the inscription of Kankurang. The NCAC 2003 Act, establishing the creation of the NCAC, refers to the promotion of arts, culture and cultural heritage in general. No specific mention of ICH is indicated.
According to Hon. Bah, the project is meant to assist The Gambia complete its first national inventory of ICH and the project therefore has a national coverage which is why we have experts in ICH from all the seven regions, all ethnic groups and languages and religions, including a fair representation of women.
He added that the first phase of the project is the capacity building aspects which will help to introduce and build skills in ICH inventory among the Technical Team from the Regions, then government officials, trainers and there will be enough capacity to embark on the field work. 
“The fieldwork will have a national scope and it is hoped that by its end the team would have been able to list research, photography  Gambians rituals, ceremonies, oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts which make up our Intangible Cultural Heritage,” he revealed.
The Tourism and Culture Minister conveyed his heartfelt thanks and gratitude to UNESCO for being steadfast and trusted partners in the development of the cultural sectors in this country. “In the five years since I assumed this Ministry, I have witnessed such events many times, a testimony to the profound UNESCO engagement with the NCAC. I want to assure Director Sanga and his able team that this project like the previous ones we have been allocated will be fully implemented and reported on as required in the contract,” he assured UNESCO. 
Speaking earlier, Mr. Dimitri Sanga, Director of the UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Office for West Africa (Sahel) stated that UNESCO has been supporting The Gambia for the past 4 years on the protection and safeguarding of it rich and diverse heritage. The project we are launching today, he added, is a systematic effort to safeguard intangible cultural heritage at the national level and covering all the countries and regions.
He further added that this project is the first of its kind to establish an inventory intangible cultural heritage contributing to the environmental management and sustainability.
For her part, Mrs Seraphine Wakana, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in The Gambia, said the Government of The Gambia has placed culture at the heart of The Gambia National Development Plan (2018-2021) and is developing a public policies in line with this: such as the recent Tourism Policy and Strategy (2022-2032) and National Arts and Culture Policy (2019-2029), which establish a link between the country’s development and the protection, safeguarding and promotion of both tangible and intangible heritage. 
This, she said, is crucial and important to the work they do as the UN, this is why they continued to work closely with the NCAC through The International Trade Center to support the creative industries and revive disappearing initiatives such as the Kankurang festival in Janjanbureh.
Culture, she noted, is indeed a cross-cutting driver for sustainable development, it contributes to reducing poverty (SDG1) through the creation of job opportunities in the cultural and tourism sectors (SDG8), strengthens quality education (SDG4), promotes social justice, and provides context-relevant responses for environmental sustainability (SDG 13). As captured in Aspiration 5 of the 2063 Agenda of the African Union, a continent with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics will get them closer to the Africa they want.
“I wish to thank Government through the Ministry of Tourism and Culture for continued partnership and wish to reiterate the UN’s continued commitment to supporting the development process of this country across all sectors,” she commended.
Mr. Hassoum Ceesay, the director general of NCAC described the project as an important one which they have been working with UNESCO for the past 2 years. He welcomed the gathering while thanking UNESCO, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the NCAC Board and staff, and the participants for their support.