Culture and creativity at the heart of Africalia

Joël Ngwaba Benjamin
18 June 2018
Africalia brought together its partners and several cultural actors around a debate on the theme “Culture and creativity, vectors of change in Belgium and in Africa”. The participants gathered at the Bellone, the House of Performing Arts in Brussels on March 29, 2018, to exchange ideas on artistic mobility in the countries of the South, as well as in Belgium.

Thanks to the support of the Belgian Development Cooperation, Africalia has long been working with artists and cultural organisations working in various contemporary disciplines: audiovisual, performing arts, literature, plastic arts, etc. Today, this NGO is positioning itself as a connector, assembler and aggregator of areas of excellence and expertise in Africa in these disciplines. The objective is of course to foster artistic mobility between the countries of the South and Belgium.

During this conference, Frédéric Jacquemin, Director of Africalia, explained the evolution of the missions of the organisation: “Compared to 5 or 6 years ago, I can notice several things. On the one hand, we have to concentrate our efforts because of our limited resources. To have a concrete impact, we can no longer be dispersed in our actions. On the other hand, the role of our mission has evolved: we are less and less perceived as donors, that is, reduced to the role of a bank distributing money. We are rather considered as an agency that allows projects to emerge by promoting exchanges between African and European expertise in order to obtain real added value.”

We are rather considered as an agency that allows projects to emerge by promoting exchanges between African and European expertise in order to obtain real added value.

Frédéric Jacquemin - Director of Africalia

Artistic mobility

Today, it is particularly crucial to promote artistic mobility in the countries of the South. How do you promote the movement of artistic works, performances and artists between countries? How do you conceive synergies between different African countries to encourage creations and a wider diffusion of art works? Because it is obvious that artistic mobility between African countries remains problematic. In practice, this can work within the same cultural area of the same region or sub-region. For example, it is quite easy for a cultural operator based in Ouagadougou to perform in Lomé or Abidjan. On the other hand, it is becoming much more complicated for him to go to East Africa or access English-speaking African countries. The opposite is also true. Africalia's current role is therefore to promote artistic mobility between different African countries.

Artistic mobility between Belgium and Africa is also facing difficulties. In Europe, and more particularly in Belgium, cultural creations from Africa are becoming more and more popular. Numerous African authors, artists and creators are invited to come to Belgium and Europe. But it is also becoming more and more difficult for an artist to obtain a visa.

A l’échelle mondiale, le marché de la culture est considérable. On parle de plusieurs milliards de dollars. Or, selon des statistiques fiables, il y a moins d’un pourcent des flux économiques liés à la culture qui peuvent être imputables à la production africaine.

Two persons watch an exhibition with projected pictures.
© Maël G. Lagadec

Digitisation of African works for a greater cultural diversity

On a global scale, the culture market is worth several billions of dollars. However, according to reliable sources, the cultural economic flows attributed to African production represent less than 1%. Therefore, to promote sustainable and endogenous growth within the African cultural world, the domestic market has to be stimulated. For example, it is questioning to note the absence of professional music publishers in Africa. There is only a very small pool of them when compared to the volume of the African musical creativity.

For Christophe Galand, “the most urgent issue for African artists is to stop seeing the European market as a priority. Many people want to create a cultural work with the sole objective of presenting it in Europe. But creativity should be based above all on the specificities of Africa. African artists must first perform on their own continent before they come to Europe”. Such a change would only be possible if African artists free themselves from Western codes and if they develop their own distribution platforms. In this respect, digitisation represents a great opportunity. African works are thus opening up to new markets. The profession of cultural producer is evolving simultaneously with the constant progress in access to telephony, Internet, social and digital media, as well as online financing platforms.

All these new technical opportunities are encouraging African creators to appropriate this digital transition. The Cinéma Numérique Ambulant Afrique (CNA Afrique) mapped out the path to follow. This pan-African network based in Ouagadougou, the capital of African cinema, currently regroups seven countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) and gives access to a cinema of quality through the distribution of African films on digital media in rural areas.


A lady stands before a car of Cinéma Numérique Ambulant Afrique (CNA Afrique)
© CNA Cameroun
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