Kenya National Commission for UNESCO - Service to Kenya and UNESCO

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Intangible Cultural Heritage

Intangible Cultural Heritage

IN Culture and Heritage, Culture Programme
Programme Director:
Mr. John Omare
January 3, 2018
About the Programme

Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) is defined as the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces that communities, groups and individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. Intangible Cultural Heritage is manifested in the following domains: Oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the Intangible Cultural Heritage; Performing arts; Social Practices, rituals and festive events; Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; and Traditional craftsmanship.

NATIONAL INVENTORY on Intangible Cultural Heritage(ICH) elements

The inventory covers four communities in Kenya namely: Luhya; Mijikenda, Maasai and Seme in Luo Nyanza. The department of culture in the Ministry of Sports and Heritage and Kenya National Commission for UNESCO(KNATCOM) in collaboration with the concerned communities, groups and the individuals will be updating the inventory after every two years. National Inventory on Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements Document(pdf)

It provides communities with a sense of identity and continuity, while promoting creativity and social well-being, contributing to the management of the natural and social environment and generating income. Much of what is called traditional or indigenous knowledge is, or can be, integrated into health care, education and management of the natural resources systems.

The 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage aims to safeguard this fragile heritage, secure its viability and make sure full advantage is taken of its potential for sustainable development. UNESCO’s action in this field supports Member States worldwide by promoting international cooperation for safeguarding, and by creating institutional and professional environments favorable to the sustainable safeguarding of this living heritage.
The term ‘cultural heritage’ has changed content considerably in recent decades, partially owing to the instruments developed by UNESCO. Cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as 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.

The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. The social and economic value of this transmission of knowledge is relevant for minority groups and for mainstream social groups within a State, and is as important for developing States as for developed ones.