Digitizing Traditional Culture in Kenya

WIPO-UNTV film, Digitizing Traditional Culture in Kenya Video | Transcript

This film is a result of a collaboration between WIPO and the United Nations Television (UNTV). The camera tracks efforts by two young Maasai in Kenya, John Ole Tingoi and Ana Tome, in their quest to document valuable cultural expressions handed down by generations of Maasai elders. The effort is nicely summarized by John when he says “Culture is identity and identity is very important,”  adding ”when an elder dies, it’s just like a light burning out so we want to get that knowledge before this generation goes.” Ana takes great pride in this work - talking about her grandfather, she says “If he knew I was doing this and was happy to be doing this, he would be proud.”

"When an elder dies, it’s just like a light burning out so we want to get that knowledge
before this generation goes." (John Ole Tingoi)

WIPO’s assistance to the Maasai community in protecting, preserving and documenting their rich cultural heritage is also captured in this film. This hands-on practical assistance is part of WIPO's Creative Heritage Project helping indigenous communities to document and preserve their own cultural traditions while simultaneously managing their intellectual property interests. WIPO provided the Maasai community with digital equipment to record its own traditions and creative expressions. The program allows the community to create its own intellectual property in the form of photographs, sound recordings and community databases. WIPO’s Director of Traditional Knowledge Division, Wend Wendland says “The project has empowered the Maasai to seize control over the recording of their own histories, their own stories. The program turns indigenous custodians of their knowledge systems into intellectual property owners. It makes them stakeholders so they can benefit from the system.”

The training program is offered by WIPO in partnership with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in the United States of America. The National Museums of Kenya also participated in the program. This project is part of WIPO’s Creative Heritage Project, which is developing an integrated set of practical resources and guidelines for cultural institutions such as museums and indigenous communities on managing intellectual property options when digitizing intangible cultural heritage.