Ik cultural dance - copyright Kara-Tunga Foundation 

The Cultural Protection Fund works in 19 countries across the Middle East, North and East Africa and South Asia.  On Africa Day 2024, we join with the grantees of our Africa projects and the communities they are working alongside to celebrate the wonderful and diverse cultures of the continent, including its music, art,  languages, crafts and traditions. 

Theodardus Joshua Vos, Director of the Kara-Tunga Foundation tells us about his organisation’s work on a Cultural Protection Fund project to protect the language and culture of the Ik community in North-East Uganda:

“The Ik community in North-East Uganda has a unique language and culture that is under threat due to marginalisation and displacement through conflict and climate change.

Along with the language comes a whole set of stories and myths that have helped the community give meaning to the world they live in. These stories also give guidance on how to become, and what it means to be, a productive Ik community member.

Through a process of cultural marginalisation these stories and myths – as well as the language in which they are expressed – are rarely passed over to the younger generation as it no longer considers them essential to their economic well-being.

The Cultural Protection Fund is supporting the Kara-Tunga Foundation in our work to protect the cultural identity of the Ik community through documentation, community engagement and training.

One of the most successful initiatives in our creative approach to safeguarding and promoting the Ik heritage has been to bring in a local artist to draw Ik community stories and myths and present them in the community's native language. These drawings will then be used in schools and as an attraction at the mountain-top tourist site where the Ik community lives.

In our research phase, we participated in traditional activities like cooking and beading to build trust and uncover cultural knowledge loss and cultural heritage erosion amongst the Ik community. 

We discovered that the Ik community is facing several intertwined challenges, notably in education, where school dropout rates due to early marriages, cultural beliefs, and misconceptions about education intersect with the absence of Ik teachers and lack of inclusion of the written language in the curriculum. 

We also rediscovered a fading cultural celebration due to security concerns, poor harvests, lack of designated dates, and exclusion of youth by the elderly.

The next steps in our project are to identify leading figures within the community, bringing them together to uncover possible solutions in areas such as education, addressing issues related to the written language, school dropouts, food insecurity, early marriages, and the erosion of cultural practices.

In the future, we hope to offer capacity-building for young Ik members in areas such as tourism skills, beading workshops, training for local guides, cultural experiences in herbal medicine and traditional cuisine, and the development of demonstration gardens consisting of indigenous grains and other cultures.”

For further information on the work of the Kara-Tunga Foundation, visit https://www.kara-tunga.com/foundation/