In December 2021, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) officially listed Senegalese Jollof (also know as Ceebu jën) as one the Country’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
This comes at a time where there have been several brouhahas and ‘beefs’ between Ghana and Nigeria about the ownership of the best Jollof recipe.
Research shows that Jollof rice originated during the entrenchment of colonial rule in West Africa between 1860 and 1940 when French colonizers replaced existing food crops with broken rice imported from Indochina.
According to a publication by Business Insider Africa, jollof has become a source of pride and cultural identity for the Senegalese.
In addition to it cultural significance, jollof rice is also closely linked to a particular way of life and consumption of the dish is strongly linked to ceremonial events and the aesthetics of presentation and service.
This certification by UNESCO is expected to positively impact the economy, particularly in tourism, agriculture, fishing and catering in the country.
So, what happens to Ghana and Ghana Jollof? Fortunately, Ghana as a state party to the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, can equally start a process to submit Ghana Jollof as ad intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
According to the 2003 UNESCO Convention, Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) means the practices, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.
This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.
The ICH is manifested in domains such as 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 craftmanship.
A visit to the website of the 2003 convention revealed that intangible cultural heritage that can be listed include traditional games, music, dance, traditional craftsmanship, weaving, festivals, and more.
Ghana, through a parliamentary process, ratified the 2003 Convention with six others in July, 2015.
However, Ghana is yet to submit any of our numerous intangible cultural assets for UNESCO’s recognition.
This is to say that, listing of a country’s intangible cultural asset for UNESCO recognition requires time and resources.
It requires research, first of all, and a committed support from Government (through relevant ministries and agencies) to follow through the process to get the intangible asset listed and recognized.
The good news is that, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has obtained financial assistance from UNESCO for strengthening capacities to safeguard Intangible Cultural Heritage towards sustainable development.
The project will also afford the country the opportunity to initiate a pilot exercise for the collection of data on intangible cultural heritage across the country, starting with eight selected districts. This will then serve as the beginning of the building of an inventory of such assets in Ghana. The project which was launched in November 2022 is co-managed by the National Commission on Culture and the National Folklore Board with support from the Ghana Commission for UNESCO.
There are so many known and unknown Intangible Cultural Heritage in the country that could be discovered and documented through research.
Some of these intangible assets include Cuisines - Jollof, Garif?t?, Aprapransa, etc; Music – highlife, nwommkoro, Adowa, Osoode, Asafo, ?mp?, Adzewa, Borborbor, etc; Dances - Agbadza, Bamaya, Kete, Adowa, Kpanlogo; Major traditional festivals, Artistic practices and Craftmanship – the art of kente weaving, the art of smock weaving, the art of pottery, the knowledge on shea butter production and many more.
Building a comprehensive inventory and register on Ghana’s Intangible Cultural Heritage must be one of the major priorities of the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
This is because, listing such assets for UNESCO recognition will go a long to further contribute to the growth the economy of Ghana by directly boosting tourism, trade, agriculture, create employment as well as increasing internal and external knowledge exchange.