By Ogova Ondego
Published April 25, 2012
A continental network of African arts festivals and cultural events has been launched following a three-day conference for African festival organisers and representatives meeting in Accra, Ghana, April 19-21, 2012.
The network, that brings together theatre, music, dance, film, literature, visual arts, heritage and multi-disciplinary events, had brought together some 300 delegates from 18 African countries representing 37 festivals to chart the way forward for African arts and cultural events. It culminated in the adoption of the constitution, the election of officials and the launch of the all-Africa network known as African Festival Network (AFRIFESTNET) on April 21, 2012.
The journey to launch AFRIFESTNET had begun at the Festival of the Dhow Countries (also known as Zanzibar International Film Festival) following a seminar for delegates in July 2010. The gathering, meeting under the aegis of the pan-African ARTerial Network, had resolved to establish a network of African festivals and events to help develop, consolidate and promote African arts and cultural events into a sustainable creative industry.
Representatives of festivals from other parts of the world attended the event alongside key decision-makers of African festivals and major events that have been in existence for at least five years.
The vision of the seminar at ZIFF, explained the outgoing ARTerial Network Secretary-General Mike Van Graan, was â€œto build the independent sustainability and to promote African arts festivals as key platforms to nurture, celebrate and project excellent and emerging African artists nationally, regionally and internationally.â€
By the end of the launch event, AFRIFESTNET had 155 registered members representing festivals and events in theatre, music, dance, film, heritage, literature, visual arts and multidisciplinary events from all five regions.
The countries represented at the launch of the AFRIFESTNET included Morocco (North Africa); Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Togo, (West Africa); Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon (Central Africa); Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda (East Africa) and Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe (Southern Africa).
The launch included keynote addresses by Korkor Amarteifio (Chairperson of Arterial Network) and Kathrin Deventer (CEO of the European Festival Association which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2012 and which expressed a desire to work as a potential partner of AFRIFESTNET); a panel discussion on the economic and social impacts of festivals with case studies from Morocco, Swaziland, Togo, South Africa, Malawi and Ghana; roundtables on fundraising and sustainability strategies for festivals; the use of social media in marketing festivals; building and consolidating festival circuits and training festival managers as well as workshops in which delegates proposed various actions for AFRIFESTNET to implement to improve festivals on the African continent.
Akua Sena Dansua, the Minister for Tourism in Ghana, who welcomed the delegates at a reception cocktail ahead of conference, congratulated them on AFRIFESTNET that, she said, has enormous potential in the development of Africa. She said AFRIFESTNET falls within her ministryâ€™s â€œpolicy framework of promoting the cultural heritage of Ghana through the wide range of the creative industry of which festivals and creative arts constitute an integral part.â€
Stressing the importance of festivals in national development, Akua Sena Dansua said that she hoped AFRIFESTNET would â€œfurther sharing of knowledge and experiences and promotion of cultural diversity which should cascade into policies and programmes for implementation by the government, the private sector, donor partners and civil societies.â€
The Minister, who also attended one of the sessions of the conference, said her ministry would â€œcontinue to support and create the congenial environment for any social event that seeks to create opportunities for wealth creation and employment generation in Ghana.â€
She said it was in that context that the Ministry of Tourism of Ghana was focusing â€œon PANAFEST and EMANCIPATION celebrations as two major events in our cultural tourism calendar.â€
For instance, she said, the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the United Kingdom Centre for Carnival Arts in Luton, UK, would organise Carnival 2012 â€œdesigned to encourage local content creativity.â€
Besides adopting a founding resolution and a Constitution to legalise AFRIFESTNET, the delegates elected an 8-person Steering Committee to lead the organisation over the next two years.
The Steering Committee:
President/Chair: Dr Kwesi Owusu â€“ Environmental Film Festival of Accra (Ghana)
Vice-President/Vice Chair: Fidelis Duker – Abuja International Film Festival (Nigeria)
Treasurer: Tony Lankester – National Arts Festival (South Africa)
North Africa: Brahim El Mazned – Timitar Festival (Morocco)
Central Africa: Luc Yatchokeu – Le Kolatier â€œAfrica Musicâ€™s Marketâ€ (Cameroon)
Western Africa: Rokhaya Daba Sarr â€“ Africa FÃªte ( Senegal)
Eastern Africa: Farah Nurani – Samosa Festival (Kenya)
Southern Africa : Musola Cathrine Kaseketi – Shungu Namutitima International Film Festival of Zambia (Zambia).