The La Tour Hassan Hotel in Rabat was the venue for the official commemoration of the World Day of African and Afro-descendant Culture (JMCA) on January 24, 2023. This commemoration is part of the activities and events organized within the framework of the “Rabat, African Capital of Culture” program initiated by UCLG Africa and implemented under the aegis of a steering committee chaired by the Wali of Rabat and with participation of the Ministry of Youth, Culture, and Communication; the Ministry of the Interior ; the Wilaya of Rabat-Salé-Kenitra; the City of Rabat; and United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa).
The official opening ceremony of this JMCA edition was marked by the speeches of:
– Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, whose speech was read on her behalf by the UNESCO representative in Morocco;
– H.E. Robert Dussey, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Togo, lead country of the JMCA at UNESCO, represented by the Ambassador of Togo in Morocco, H.E Amakoé Klutse;
– H.E. Mr. Mohammed Mehdi Bensaid, Minister of Youth, Culture and Communication of Morocco, represented by Mr. Mohamed Ben Yacoub, Director of Arts and Commissioner of the celebration of Rabat African Capital of Culture;
– Mrs. Asmaa Rhlalou, Mayor of Rabat,
– Mr. Abdelkrim Bennani, President of the Ribat Al Fath Association,
– Mr. Ayité Dossavi, President of the African Network of Cultural Promoters and Entrepreneurs, and initiator of the JMCA;
– Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa.
“On this World Day, it is not a single culture, but cultures, rich in their diversity, which we celebrate. We are also honoring artists from all countries and all disciplines, in fields as numerous as cinema, music, dance, fashion and design – which are all creative industries that represent a livelihood for artists, in order to work for the African cultural renaissance. UNESCO, particularly within the framework of its global priority for Africa, is committed to supporting this tremendous creative potential”, said the representative of Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.
“Africans are the only people in the world to be present in the five continents, despite the distance from Mother Earth, they have never moved away from their culture, which is that of togetherness, social cohesion, solidarity, benevolence, and humanity, characteristics which are more important for Africans than the competition of all against all, which has unfortunately become the homogenized cultural order of the world”, declared Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, adding that through the JMCA, “Africa wants to affirm that it represents the benevolence of the world and that it has the duty to be so, because it will represent half of humanity in 2100. From 2030 onwards, one in two young people aged 18 and under will be in Africa. It is therefore Africa’s responsibility to reconcile the world. The JMCA must be the vector of this reconciliation, and UNESCO its bearer. »
The official opening ceremony was followed by an inaugural conference on the theme “History of Africa, History of Mankind”, delivered by Mr. Célestin Monga, Professor of Economics at Harvard University in Boston, USA, followed by three discussion panels moderated by Ms. Farida Moha, Journalist, around the following themes:
1- Promoting African and Afro-descendant culture in the context of the globalized economy;
2- Reconciling African youth and their culture: the possibilities offered by digital technologies;
3- The contribution of the Diaspora and Afro-Descendants to the international influence of African culture.
These moderated panels brought together distinguished speakers from Africa and its Diaspora including personalities from the literary and artistic world, the academic world, the political world, as well as actors from NGOs and associations, including youth associations, journalists and media professionals, in the presence of many guests including several ambassadors and representatives of the diplomatic corps based in Morocco.
The first Panel brought together Mr. Eugene Ebodé, writer and Administrator of the Chair of African Literature and Arts at the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco; Dr. Julius W. Garvey, son of Marcus Garvey, the founder of Pan-Africanism, representing the Diaspora of the United States of America; and Mrs. Meryem Sebti, Publishing Director of Diptyk, a contemporary African art magazine.
The speakers of the second Panel were Mr. Philomé Robert, originally from Haiti, journalist at the France 24 television channel; Mr. Harold Love, Member of the United States House of Representatives from Tennessee; Mr. Hicham Lahlou, international designer and founder of the Africa Design Award Days project; and Mr. Will Mbiakop, Executive President of the African Institute of Sport and Creation (ASCI).
The third Panel brought together Mrs. Carolina Maíra Morais, Historian (Brazil); Mr. Gordon Williams, Grammy Award Winner (USA), and Mrs. Rachida Kaaout, High Commissioner for African Diasporas in France.
Summarizing the work of the official commemoration of the World Day of African and Afro-descendant Culture, Mr. Monceyf Fadili, essayist, former representative of UN-Habitat in Morocco, underlined the high quality of the exchanges of views and ideas that took place, and the diversity of perspectives to be considered to shed light on the trajectories to be taken in order to give back to African and African-descendant culture the place it deserves within universal culture. Everyone agreed that when a human being does not have a bond to his or her culture, they are like a traveler in unknown territory without a compass, hence the imperative of transmitting African culture and values to new generations so that African cultural identity is never lost.
The proceedings of the Day ended with the presentation and discussion of the draft Manifesto for the Renewal of African and Afro-descendant Culture, advocated for by the Kingdom of Morocco and UCLG Africa and supported by the partners adhering to the project.
Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi presented the Draft Manifesto which was then the subject of comments and orientations by Mr. Alphadi, Founding President of FIMA, Nigerian designer and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Innovation and African Creation; Mrs. Amouyeme Ollame Parfaite, Gabonese writer, and Mr. Sansy Kaba Diakité, organizer of the 72 Hours Book Fair in Conakry, Guinea.
“Africa is also its Diaspora”, recalled the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, stressing the need to change the narrative on Africa, its history, and its culture, in order to recount Africa to the children of the Diaspora as it really is, as well as the need to give hope and new prospects to African youth.
For his part, Alphadi stressed the importance for Africa to reclaim its culture, its brands, and its works through intellectual protection, the recovery of value chains such as those of textiles so that, for example, the traditional clothes worn by Africans are produced in their continent within an industry that creates jobs and drives development in their countries.
For her part, Amouyeme Ollame Parfaite affirmed that Africa should not write its history as a tragedy, but on the contrary value the contribution of Africa in the history of Mankind in order to cultivate self-esteem in the African child from the young age. This enhancement can then be translated into a better affirmation and defense of African identity and culture.
And for the children of Africa to be able to take over, books are essential, according to Sansy Kaba Diakité, who recalled that the World Book and Copyright Day on April 23 each year is very little celebrated in Africa and that it is necessary to take initiatives without being discouraged even in African countries where there is little or no distribution and promotion of books. It is this concern for transmission through the book that led him to create a publishing house and to organize an annual event called the “72 hours of the book of Conakry”. Mr. Diakité pleaded for Conakry to be declared the African Capital of Books and Publishing and is counting on UCLG Africa to make this possible.
The Manifesto for African and Afro-descendant Culture will be presented and discussed at the meeting of African Ministers of Culture scheduled in Rabat at the end of the celebration of Rabat African Capital of Culture. In the meantime, a working group should be set up to collect all the suggestions and recommendations and draw up the draft Manifesto to be submitted for the approval of the African Ministers of Culture.
Winners of the JMCA-KEKELI Prize
The official commemoration of the World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture ended with the Gala dinner organized at the Marriott Hotel in Rabat, which was marked by the presentation of the JMCA-KEKELI Prizes for Merit and Honor, awarded by the RAPEC NGO and the Mobilization Committee of the JMCA.
This prize, inspired by the word “Kékéli ” which means “Light”, honors personalities who work for the promotion of African culture, social cohesion, unity and peace between peoples.
The JMCA-KEKELI Award of Merit was awarded to His Majesty AKATSI II DJIDJILÉVO, Secretary General of ORRA (Organization of Kings and Queens of Africa) and Dr. Martine NGO NYEMB-WISMAN, founder of the NGO Femmes Interface Nord -South.
The JMCA-KEKELI Honor Prize was awarded to Mr. André AZOULAY, Moroccan journalist, economist and politician and to Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa.
On this occasion, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi expressed his deep conviction that “we must do everything so that the indignity and shame that our ancestors experienced, that we have experienced and which are still experienced in Africa, ceases.”
The Gala dinner ended on a high note with performances by the Burkinabe singer, Princess Stella Aicha Sagnon, who is the spokesperson for the “Messagers des messages”, a pan-African cultural and artistic movement for educational entertainment, as well as the singer Emelance Emy who came from Burundi to make the guests dance to the rhythms of African music.
As a reminder, it was at the instigation of the African Network of Cultural Promoters and Entrepreneurs (RAPEC), and with the support of the Republic of Togo and of the African Group, that UNESCO proclaimed, on the occasion of the 40th session of its General Conference in 2019, January 24 as World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture (JMCA). This date coincides with the adoption of the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance, adopted by the Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) at their conference held in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1966.
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