FIMA 2022: Roundtable on the protection of works and intellectual property

The 14th edition of FIMA, the International Festival of Fashion in Africa, was held from December 7 to 10, 2022 at the historic site of Chellah in the city of Rabat, designated African Capital of Culture until May 2023 under the program “African Capitals of Culture” initiated by UCLG Africa.

The festival, founded by the internationally renowned Nigerian stylist and UNESCO Artist for Peace, Alphadi, was placed under the theme: “Synergy of Cultures for the Development of Africa”.

On the 4th and last day of FIMA, a roundtable was held on the theme “Protection of works and intellectual property”. Moderated by the cultural journalist Hortense Assaga, this meeting saw the intervention of:

Lotfi Aoulad, Program Manager at UNESCO for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

Catherine Laski, CEO of Black Beauty Celebrities Magazine

Anne Grosfilley, PhD in anthropology and specialist in fashion and textiles from Africa

The panelists stressed the need for designers to be informed about their intellectual property rights, for example by adding a module on this subject in training courses. They also affirmed that the cost of registration remains an obstacle to the protection of creations which must be remedied so that all creators can exercise their rights, especially in this “globalized world where cultural appropriation is debated, and in which it is necessary to protect in order to be recognized”, according to the anthropologist Anne Grosfilley.

The craftsman-creator relationship was also part of the debate during which the importance of an economic return for the craftsman and the valorization of his work to avoid copying was raised.

The restitution of African works of art has been controversial for some years, but it was pointed out that there is not enough controversy around the African wax fabric produced in China or Holland that floods the market in Africa while the factories on the continent are going bankrupt. The panelists not only affirmed that this chain of production must be taken back, but that it is also necessary to sensitize consumers to the need of knowing the origin of their clothes in order to encourage them to buy locally made garments.

This panel was also marked by the participation of Monceyf Fadili, author of the book “Rabat, un printemps confiné” (Rabat, a confined spring), who listed the following 10 recommendations for the protection of works and intellectual property in Africa:

1. Make the protection of heritage in general and works in particular a priority of cultural policies in Africa.

2. Develop a framework for valorization, appropriation and protection through proactive public policies in favor of cultural heritage in Africa.

3. Engage in a broad process of awareness and mobilization through education.

4. Protect African cultural capital and its property from all forms of misappropriation and looting, particularly in conflict and post-conflict zones.

5. Encourage all forms of integration of artistic and artisanal production, particularly in the direction of the informal sector, through the creation of a dedicated development fund, especially for women as project leaders.

6. Rely on all the actors and stakeholders in artistic and craft production, and its promotion, in particular by institutional actors, representatives of trades, local elected officials and civil society.

7. Promote a framework of protection and valorization through the labeling and the recognition by the inscription of the successful productions in the national heritage.

8. Encourage access to information and communication technologies, to produce, market, sell, exchange and promote.

9. Set up the museums as a space of vocation dedicated to the census, to the valorization and to the appropriation of the cultural and artistic heritage.

10. Rely on international development bodies for the establishment and adoption of harmonized normative frameworks between Member States on the African continent.

During the four days of FIMA, designers, stylists, model makers and fashion actors in Africa exchanged their experience, found new partners and multiplied contacts through a program of competitions, exhibitions of paintings, African textiles and creations, round tables on various themes related to culture, and fashion shows that represented 32 African countries and the five continents.