Africa's harissa, raï and Kalela win Unesco heritage status

© AFP - FETHI BELAID

Spicy harissa paste from Tunisia, Morocco's raï music and Kalela dance from Zambia were selected on Thursday to join Unesco's intangible cultural heritage list.

The United Nations' cultural agency met in the Moroccan capital of Rabat on Thursday to examine proposals for its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which aims to protect cultural traditions, practices and knowledge.

There was no debate over whether to include Tunisia's harissa – a paste made with sun-dried hot peppers, spices and olive oil, found in almost every restaurant in Tunisia and exported worldwide.

Tunisia's application for the status noted that harissa is "an integral part of domestic provisions and the daily culinary and food traditions of Tunisian society", usually prepared in a family or community setting.

"It is perceived as an identifying element of national culinary heritage, and a factor of social cohesion."

Kalela dance

The debates were longer for Kalela, a traditional dance that originated during colonial times in the Luapula Province of Zambia.

"It was adopted by mine workers and used for entertainment at the Chief’s Palace during traditional ceremonies, funerals, harvest celebrations and other important occasions," says the Unesco website.

Zambia's bid was supported by countries including Sweden, Saudi Arabia and Botswana, while Burkina Faso asked for more details to strengthen the application.

It took 40 minutes of discussion for Kalela to make the cut.

'Decisive act of recognition'

The last dossier from an African state concerned raï, a popular form of song from Algeria. Like harissa, it got through without debate.


Read more on RFI English

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