As part of our 10 Year Anniversary celebrations, Arterial Network has reached back into the past to draw forward lessons and inspiration from that hopeful gathering in 2007 when the network was conceived. In 2009, Mulenga Kapwepwe (Zambia) was elected as the first Chairperson of the network - an enormous undertaking with a supportive Steering Committee that was, nevertheless, scattered across the continent. In this interview, the prominent arts and business consultant takes us back to Gorée Island and illuminates the energetic atmosphere in which Arterial Network was created.
Arterial Network: To begin, could you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Mulenga Kapwepwe: I have done a great many things over the years. I have worked as an independent consultant for government, corporate entities, and within the arts and cultural sector for entities such as the European Union, the Ministry of Sport Youth and Child Development, UNAIDS, UNICEF, UNDP, Irish AID and USAID. I am and have been a patron of a number of associations, including the Women in Visual Arts Association, the Zambian Folk Music and Dance Association, and The Youth For Culture Association. I am also a member of the Zambia Visual Arts Council, and the Zambia Women Writers Association, and I have served on the Boards of the National Youth Council of Zambia, the Zambia Commission for UNESCO, the National Museums Board, as well as the Arts Institute of Africa. I am one of the three founders of the Kilimanjaro Film Institute Zambia, and a founding member of Lubuto Libraries. I also established the Lusaka Youth Orchestra, and have written a number of award winning plays and books.
What brought you to the conference on Gorée Island in 2009 where Arterial Network was formed?
I was invited as a member of the International Network on Cultural Diversity.
Could you please describe the atmosphere at the conference? What were the main aims for what the network should be?
It was extremely exciting. It was a gathering of enthusiastic and passionate minds. It was great to share with other African artists our different experiences, challenges and successes. In the end, we realised that these African experiences, challenges and successes were more similar than they were different, and that perhaps, if we all came together, we could tackle them, or use them to our common advantage. These observations formed part of what became the main aims of the Arterial Network; to keep ourselves informed on the sector we were engaged in, to build capacity in the many players that make up the sector, to conduct research into issues that were affecting the sector and find solutions, to find viable ways of organising and making African artists more effective advocates, implementers and producers, and of course, mobilise resources to realise all of this.
What were some of your achievements during your time on the first Arterial Network Steering Committee? What challenges did you face and what would you do differently?
Let me start by paying tribute to that hardworking first Steering Committee, who though scattered across the continent, found the time and resources to travel, lobby, present, and work as a team to lay a foundation for the establishment of the Arterial Network.
I think some of the successes were crafting the Gorée Island resolutions into implementable actions and programmes, as well as securing funding for the Arterial Network year after year. Another success was growing the membership and establishing Arterial Network in different countries, as a continental and global brand. The challenges were many as we were learning as we went. Some things didn’t work out as we had planned and not everybody agreed on everything, but I think all in all, for me, the creation of the Arterial Network was one of the best and very positive learning experiences of my life.
I think what I would do differently would be to probably pace the establishment of the Network’s presence in the different countries, allowing for more considered reflection and support. We hurried that a little and as a result, the Network floundered in some countries.
What is your message to the Arterial Network members for the 10 Year Anniversary?
Congratulations to the Arterial Network on attaining its 10th Anniversary! I wish you all the best in your efforts! Please continue to inform, organise and make African artists effective and creative advocates, producers and implementers, allowing them to be continental and global players!
Interviewer: Marie-Louise Rouget, Arterial Network
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