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July 29 2017


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On the 4th of July 2017, Arterial Network Mauritania organised a meeting for local artists to discuss the status of the artist in Mauritania, held on the sidelines of the 10th Assalamalekoum Festival. Diana Ramarohetra (Artwatch Africa Project Manager) took part in the meeting.

"We have a new law regarding the status of artists that was passed in 2011, but it remains virtually unknown," says Limam Kane (aka Monza, Chairperson of Arterial Network Mauritania), before continuing, "for this reason we wanted to organise a meeting to discuss this status and improve its implementation with the participation of actors from across the cultural scene in Mauritania - we need everyone to get involved."

Beyond discussing the law, the participants especially wanted to discuss the artist's card that is issued to artists in Mauritania. “We have this artist card which unfortunately has no real value to the bearer or to the authorities - it means nothing to the police, for example,” one of the participants explained. “But in Senegal, one can present his or her artist's card without fear and it can even be used as a valid identity document.”

Issued by the Ministry of Culture, the local artist's card was established without prior criteria and without any specific and clear procedure. During the debate, it was proposed that a list of criteria be established by artists themselves in order to avoid the surge of those who would falsely request a card while not being a practising artist, which could discredit the sector. "If we want people to take us seriously, it is just as important that we can professionalise ourselves so that the issue of this card is done according to the rules and following the authority of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania,” another participant explained. “Without this, the police will never take it seriously, for example.”

Concerning the status of artists, the participants were urged to take the initiative to learn more about the law and how it affects them. "We as artists need to be more responsible,” Limam said. “I have an obligation to go to the official gazette to be informed of the laws and other decrees that concern me and my profession: we should all cultivate this natural reflex towards self empowerment.”

In the meantime, a flyer will be drafted in order to push the authorities to popularise and enforce the Law on the Status of the Artist. An appeal to artists will also be made, encouraging solidarity and fruitful collaborations so that art and culture will continue to develop across Mauritania, as a united sector.

In a country where there are more than 2280 rap groups identified by the Assalamalekoum Chaab Youth Saghav survey, the role and position of artists cannot be underestimated. Art is more than just a personal expression. It also acts as a tool for political opposition as it often compensates for the deficiencies of the State. Examples of this would be Les Echos du Sahel Youth Centre and the youth hip hop dancing group "Desert Devils" formed by Assalamalekoum Festival, Festa 2H and Kaay Fecc Festival. These dance workshops give young people a nurturing, collaborative space that is not otherwise provided by the Mauritanian government. Through these spaces, the next generation of Mauritanians are being trained and educated through art.

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