The project about to start aims to strengthen national capacities for the identification and safeguarding of ICH and to raise public awareness of the importance of heritage and its social value.
It will also support Gambian communities to complete the first national inventory of intangible cultural heritage (ICH).
During the launch of the project during the event held at the premises of the National Arts and Culture Center in Banjul, Minister of Tourism and Culture, Hamat NK Bah revealed that the project is funded by UNESCO and would be executed by the NCAC and the UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar with the support of living heritage experts from the UNESCO ICH expert network.
Minister Bah explained that the project has taken a long time to develop, saying the collaboration began as early as early 2021 when the UNESCO office in Dakar began working with the NCAC to design it “over a period of almost 16 months”.
And “it was finally approved in February and the implementing partnership agreement signed between UNESCO and the NCAC for it to start in earnest, with UNESCO allocating US$50,590.00 to the entire project for the NCAC segment,” he added.
The project, he noted, has nationwide coverage, which is why “we have IPC experts from all seven regions, from all ethnic groups, languages and religions, including an equitable representation of women.” .
According to Minister Bah, the ICH elements that will be most valuable for the inventory are those that have high practical value and can contribute to the sustainable management of natural resources, disaster risk reduction or the prevention of violent extremism.
The information, Minister Bah said, will be published in a document called The Gambia Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Inventory which will assist The Gambia in its development planning process, particularly in relation to the heritage and tourism sectors.
“The new tourism policy and strategy and the new national arts and culture policy have mentioned the need for a national inventory of tangible and intangible heritage to enable sectors to know what is to be valued in order to provide new tourism products and contribute to the strengthening of our national identity as Gambians,” he said.
The government has also supported the institutional and legal framework for the culture and arts sector, he said.
He therefore thanked UNESCO for being their faithful and trusted partner in the development of the country’s cultural sectors.
Speaking at the launch, Seraphine Wakana, United Nations Resident Coordinator in The Gambia, testified that The Gambia has a deep and incredibly rich history, dating back to protohistoric times, as well as a very rich heritage.
“The Senegambia Stone Circles, one of The Gambia’s World Heritage Sites, represent an extraordinary concentration of over 1,000 along the Gambia River, dating from the 3rd to the 16th centuries. They testify to the highly sophisticated social organizations that have settled in The Gambia in the past and to the enormous historical richness of this country,” she explained.
The UN Resident Coordinator said that the Gambian government has placed culture at the heart of the Gambian NDP (2018-2021) and is developing public policies accordingly, such as the recent Tourism Policy and Strategy (2022-2032) and the national arts. and Culture (2019-2029), which establishes a link between the development of the country and the protection, safeguarding and promotion of tangible and intangible heritage.
Mr. Dimitri Sanga, Director of UNESCO Multisectoral Regional Officer for West Africa, Sahel vis-à-vis Virtual Means made some remarks on the project, while Hassoum Ceesay, the Director General of NCAC gave a detailed overview of the project.