UCLG Africa Celebrates World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture

Since 2019, UNESCO has proclaimed January 24 of each year as the World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture. For the 2021 edition, UCLG Africa and the African Network of Cultural Promoters and Entrepreneurs (RAPEC) have celebrated the event by organizing a panel discussion on the theme of the day: “Celebrating African culture for a reconciled humanity”.

The panel was made up of : Mr. Mohamed Sadiki, Mayor of Rabat ; Mr. Mouhamadou Youssifou, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to Morocco, Mr. Abdelilah Afifi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Culture (Morocco), Mr. Driss El Yazami, President of the Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad (CCME), Princess Stella Aicha, spokesperson for the “Messengers of Messages” musical group, Mr. Monceyf Fadili, author of the book (Rabat, un printemps confiné) (“Springtime in a quarantined Rabat city), Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa, and Mr. John Ayité Dossavi, President and founder of the RAPEC NGO. The discussions were moderated by Ms. Farida Moha, journalist.

The meeting which was held at the headquarters of UCLG Africa and via the Zoom platform was attended by a hundred persons representing members of the diplomatic corps, local authorities, international organizations, cultural actors, and civil society associations.

The message from Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, was read before the start of the discussions. The Director General underlined the importance of the World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture. “As we begin 2021, which African Heads of State have declared the Year of the Arts, Culture and Heritage, this World Day is therefore an opportunity to promote these African and Afro-descendant cultures in order to enable them to play their full part in development and peace. The Promotion of African and Afro-descendant cultures is all the more important as the global crisis has exacerbated all the tensions in our societies. The fact is that these cultures offer pride, answers and something to heal even the deepest wounds. Yet these cultures offer pride, answers, and what to heal the most intimate wounds”, she declared. (Read the full post here ).

The panelists addressed the theme : ” Celebrating African culture for a reconciled Humanity “, around three pillars : 1) The emergence of memorial issues with a demand for a new ownership of African history, 2) The importance of culture in the context of the search for the dignity of Africa, 3) The need to train young Africans in cultural and digital professions.

For Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, it is important to make the voice of Africa heard through its culture because “ culture is what makes us who we are ”. “ We are what we are because we are rooted in a culture. Losing one’s culture is losing oneself. Many leaders have lost sight of this. We are here to reiterate this simple truth : If you don’t know where you came from, you would never know where you are going. Amadou Hampaté Bâ is absolutely right when he says that our roots are what project us best into the future. The fact that most of our countries have given so little importance to cultural public policies is simply unconscionable. As of today, Africa is unable to have a radio channel which broadcasts African culture. This situation needs to be addressed by the African Union: it is extremely important that culture be rooted in this continent”, he said. “This is why UCLG Africa has taken the initiative to ensure that the debate on culture be also a local debate, a debate on local authorities. When we met at Africities 2018 in Marrakech, it was decided to celebrate the African Capitals of Culture and the city of Rabat was selected as the first African Capital of Culture. We believe that it is extremely necessary for our children and our young people to rediscover the African culture ”, pleaded Mr. Mbassi.

Faced with the observation that African authorities do not give enough importance to the cultural aspect, His Excellency Mouhamadou Youssifou, Ambassador of Cameroon to Morocco and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to Morocco, recommended that ” Africa should invest in all areas of culture, so that the continent takes its place in the global cultural arena. It should be noted the importance of the exchange of intangible goods in the collective consciousness. It should be known that Africa has also contributed to the development of human civilization”.

Mr. Abdelilah Afifi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Culture (Morocco) shared Morocco’s actions to make culture more visible. “We are aware of the impact of the cultural component on socio-economic development. Actions have been taken to make culture more visible. The strengthening of cultural facilities with the construction of the Great Theater of Rabat, the Great Theater of Casablanca, and museums. We have also invested in training people for cultural professions. We have completed the construction of the Higher Institute of Music and Choreographic Arts (Rabat). By boosting culture, we also boost the economy. Cultural tourism can strongly contribute to the country’s GDP ”.

Mr. Monceyf Fadili underlined the importance of Afro-descendant culture marked by participation in festivals organized on the continent. About fifty festivals are organized in Africa. But South Africa and Morocco do stand out. Half of the festivals are organized by these two countries which are also the top tourist countries in Africa.

For Mr. Driss El Yazami, one cannot talk about African culture without talking about the diaspora. “Aimé Césaire played a central role in this area. It is through the diaspora, through our encounter with other people that we recover our sovereignty. There is no development without culture. Culture is at the center of development. It is culture that gives meaning to development. Our children who were born in European metropolises are in demand of African cultures in order to build their own identity”.

The mayor of Rabat, Mr. Mohamed Sadiki also spoke about the importance of culture in his city. “ Culture is a cross-cutting element. We are in charge of cities and towns. Rabat has experienced a very large program initiated by His Majesty King Mohammed VI since 2014. It is the “Rabat city of lights and capital of Moroccan culture” program. This is a responsibility for our city, which has endowed itself with a significant number of cultural infrastructures. Every nation must identify with its culture. At the level of local authorities, during the various Africities summits, there is always a cultural touch. We look forward to the end of this COVID pandemic to celebrate Rabat as African Capital of Culture ”.

Mr. John Ayité Dossavi insisted on the fact that the World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture is an initiative that was carried by African civil society. “The World Day becomes a bridge between our peoples. The idea that I wore in 2011, has been sealed at the 6th edition of the Africities Summit in Dakar 2012. In November 2019, the 40th session of the UNESCO General Conference proclaimed the World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture. This celebration is the result of the efforts led by the RAPEC network with the support of UCLG Africa. The World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture is not just a folk day, but a day of reflection. We are in a process aiming at making the voice of Africa heard around the world”.

As far as youth is concerned, Mr. Mbassi recalled that the history of Africa “ does not begin with colonization. The narration of our history is a narration that does not rise up to Africa ”.

For Princess Stella, the feeling of belonging also means valuing mother tongues. “ We tend to lose our mother tongues. Children are at a loss right from the beginning. The mother tongue makes it possible to keep the tangible and intangible heritage. Art and culture are means that should be utilized to get there. “

In conclusion, Mr. Driss El Yazami, proposed to set up a large program of translation of the African culture that requires the involvement of local governments.

Retrouvez l’intégralité des échanges ici

In addition, the meeting also served as a platform for the presentation of the book “ Rabat, un printemps confiné” by Monceyf Fadili (More details here) and of the KEKELI Prize, a prized backed to the celebration of the World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture, aimed at supporting people who work for the promotion of African culture and living together of peoples.

Discover the 2020 winners here