Botswana will host the 18th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage from 3rd to 9th December 2023 in Kasane.

This presents the Chobe District a rare opportunity to showcase its Seperu Folkdance and Associated Practices element, which was inscribed under UNESCO Urgent Safeguarding List in 2019 following an extensive community based inventorying exercise in 2012 in which ninety-two (92) elements were recorded.

Officiating at an ongoing exhibition at the University of Botswana titled, ‘Heritage Unveiled: Celebrating Botswana’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Treasures’ recently – Dean Molebatsi, a Policy Specialist- Arts and Culture, at the Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture – revealed that UNESCO has supported safeguarding efforts for Seperu with USD 94,447.00 which is equivalent to P1,274,147.00.

The money represents the fruits of the District ICH Committee and Seperu groups, who had requested financial assistance from the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund to implement the Safeguarding Plan for the element.

Molebatsi explained that some of the activities in the Safeguarding Plan for Seperu Folkdance and Associated Practices include establishing school clubs, conducting coaching clinics, conducting in-depth research and documentation of the elements and to promote the use of mushishi, as well as formation of the Village ICH Committees.

Other elements that will also be showcased at the 18.COM include Earthenware Pottery Making Skills and Dikopelo Folk Music of Bakgatla ba Kgafela both of which were inscribed in 2012 and 2017 respectively.

In like manner the inscription of both these elements followed a pilot project in Community-based Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventorying at Grass Roots Level which was undertaken in Kgatleng District in 2010 out of which

122 ICH elements were documented from which three (3) elements were submitted for possible inscription under the UNESCO Urgent Safeguarding List (USL). Molebatsi explained that Kgatleng community received USD 68, 261.10 (P707, 867.61) for the implementation of Safeguarding Plan of the Earthenware Pottery Making Skills of the Bakgatla ba Kgafel in 2016/17.

The project had four (4) phases, according to the policy expert, being; Research Exercise, Capacity building, Production of Educational Material and Exhibition.

New Cultural Space / Resource Areas were identified in Modipane and Mmathubudukwane, 12 living human treasures (bo Mmantsswitswidi) were discovered, 17 young people were trained on pottery making, while booklets and video were produced for educational purposes.

The project was completed in June 2018, according to Molebatsi.

The Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture has organised a press conference today (Wednesday 22 November 2023) to elaborate on the 18.COM and the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), which Botswana ratified and became a State Party to on the 1st July 2010. .