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April 30 2015

Arterial Network: artists against social injustice

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Masks with the names of the victims of the attack on Garissa University College are displayed during a memorial concert in downtown Nairobi. Artist: Musasia Brian. (c) Photography: Brian Ing'ang'a


Arterial Network's vision is of a vibrant, dynamic and sustainable African creative civil society sector engaged in qualitative practice in the arts in their own right, as well as in a manner that contributes to development, to human rights and democracy, and to the eradication of poverty on the African continent. We believe that art has value in its own right and is also an instrument of social cohesion, education, intercultural dialogue and a vehicle for achieving and transmitting social value for the social good.

As a panafrican and intercultural organization meant to celebrate our shared humanity through art, we are obviously deeply disturbed and pained by the recent acts of racist violence that took place in South Africa. Our hearts are with these recent victims of xenophobia, but also with the thousands of migrants who die off European shores every year, with the victims of Garissa, with every single family whose daughter is yet to return from Boko Haram's hold, with the victims of the Malian suicide bombers, with the recent attacks in Beni, DRC, and with the thousands lives lost each year on the continent that are unaccounted for, uncelebrated and unnamed.

As such, given the scope of our mandate, the one that is given to us by our members, and given our limited resources, we make our small and significant contribution by celebrating the role of cultural actors, of artists, of music, film, and other transnational and cultural initiatives in reducing the barriers that stop us from seeing one another as African and as human. We affirm the transformative power of the arts, and its ability to show the vast potential, beauty and resilience of all. We do not forget the central importance that artists played worldwide in ending the Apartheid regime, nor the long years of support given by the people of Africa against the ethnic and racial hatred that took place in South Africa.  Arterial Network’s Artwatch Africa Ambassadors programme is in the process of releasing a song against racism, bigotry and all forms of religious fundamentalisms and extremisms. 

See a video on the project here.

We are showing the power that culture and regional cooperation can play in achieving greater peace and stability. Art and artists also act as important agents of change and through their work we are reminded of our humanity, we are challenged to add our efforts to bring renewed dignity and justice to the world we all live in.

As Mia Couto wrote in his open letter to President Zuma:

“It is necessary to recreate the feelings of solidarity between our peoples and to rescue the memory of a time of shared struggles. As artists, as makers of culture and of social values, we are available so that, together with South African artists, we can face this new challenge, in unity with the countless expressions of revulsion born within South African society. We can still transform this pain and this shame into something which expresses the nobility and dignity of our peoples and our nations. As artists and writers, we want to declare our willingness to support a spirit of neighbourliness which is born, not from geography, but from a kinship of our common soul and shared history.”

Arterial Network thus calls on all artists to respond the societal issues that they hold at heart, and will continue to welcome and applaud initiatives such as the ‪#‎IAMAMIGRANT video made for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), poems like Shaija Patel's on Garissa, the Anant Singh & Videovision Entertainment film made in association with the Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada Foundations,  Boubacar Boris Diop’s essay on the “Assassins of Memory”.

We conclude our statement with some poignant words by Achille Mbembe, in a recent article on the xenophobic attacks:

“Finally, one word about "foreigners" and "migrants". No African is a foreigner in Africa! No African is a migrant in Africa! Africa is where we all belong, notwithstanding the foolishness of our boundaries. No amount of national-chauvinism will erase this. No amount of deportations will erase this. Instead of spilling black blood on no other than Pixley ka Seme Avenue (!), we should all be making sure that we rebuild this Continent and bring to an end a long and painful history - that which, for too long, has dictated that to be black (it does not matter where or when), is a liability.”


Contact Jeanne Hefez at for comments and questions.


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