Artwatch Africa

Artwatch intro

Artwatch Africa aims to assert, promote and defend artist rights and freedom of creative expression for artists and cultural practitioners in Africa. Artwatch Africa is premised on the understanding that freedom of expression is an essential condition for creative practice in the arts, and that to promote freedom of expression is to advance democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms on the continent. Within a broad definition of artist rights Artwatch Africa also addresses equitable access to resources and opportunity, provision of infrastructure, legal support mechanisms, copyright and intellectual property, cultural diversity, and culture in formal and informal education systems


1.  To empower artists and cultural practitioners

2.  To influence government thinking and society perceptions around artist rights, firstly as an extrapolation of human rights and in terms of relevant conventions, and secondly, for the establishing of an enabling environment for democratic arts practice in Africa.

Artwatch Africa is active across the continent working through its four programme areas of training, advocacy, research and visibility/communication in partnership with Arterial Network members and local organisations.  

Through workshops, seminars, public activities, stakeholder engagements, media presence and the establishment of monitoring and information dissemination systems, Artwatch Africa empowers local civil society actors within the arts, cultural, human rights and related sectors to promote and defend the rights of artists and contribute to democracy building within Africa.

See Artwatch Africa’s latest news section to learn more about its latest activities.


Training for Artwatch Africa is the first stage of this project. From 15 to 21 June 2014, 17 coordinators from the 5 regions in Africa attended a one week training course for trainers in Zanzibar. This training course, provided by the Swedish Foundation of Human Rights, enabled coordinators to familiarise themselves with the methodologies and the theme “The rights of artists and artistic and creative freedom of expression”. This was a first for many as Abdoulaye Diallo, the coordinator of Artwatch Africa in Burkina Faso and chairman of Arterial Network in Burkina Faso explains: “Much is said about Human Rights and freedom of expression. But it is true that no specific work has ever been done on freedom of creative expression and artistic freedom. And for that reason alone it is necessary to have Artwatch Africa in order to fulfil that objective”.


This training session was the beginning of the training campaign, held between August and December 2014. In total 15 national training sessions have been organised on the theme “Human Rights, Cultural Rights and Artists’ Rights”. Training has been carried out by Mabelle Nforchu, Abdoulaye Diallo and Diana Ramarohetra and consists of artists, cultural actors, Human Rights activists, members of public institutions (Ministries, Office for Authors’ royalties, Censorship Bureau) and journalists.


Human Rights and Artists’ Rights

The first day consists of an introduction to human rights by means of practical exercises resulting in a better understanding of what rights are and the way in which they are experienced and interpreted on a daily basis in our societies, by artists in particular. The first day is also an introduction to the different legal documents which have been signed and ratified by our states and which are necessary tools when one speaks of the protection of artists’ rights. “There are many tools which we can use to solve our problems and during these training sessions we have learned to understand them better. We need more time to master them. However, this is a very good start,” says Ben Kandukira, singer and a member of the Namibian training sessions.


During the second day cultural rights are discussed as well as the relationship between cultural rights and rights of the Artist. The main themes dealt with during the second day are questions around the status of artists and royalties, but also the artist’s role and even defining his role. This provides an opportunity for all taking part to share experiences and frustrations and to give some thought to future courses of action in order to improve the situation in their countries.

The aim of these training programmes is not to suggest stereotyped solutions to all the questions, but it enables participants to create a firm base, establish new structures and to, personally and collectively, develop the same definition of what we call Artists’ Rights and freedom of creative expression.

Artwatch Africa funders and partners include Hivos, Swedish Postcode Lottery, Swedish Foundation for Human Rights, Swedish Institute, Mimeta, Hivos and Goethe Institut.