Artwatch Africa Review 2014

Culture is both an enabler and driver of development in ways not fully appreciated by governments or society.

Culture, however, is not neutral. Culture embodies worldviews and values that influence how we perceive and interact with others. Because of Culture some cultural groups exert dominance over other cultural groups. Despite the clarion call to celebrate cultural diversity, cultural difference remains a major cause of marginalization, repression, xenophobia, conflict and war. The divisive aspects of culture need to be addressed; abuse of the rights of human beings cannot hide behind culture. Research has shown that the arts can play a role in bringing people together, in breaking down barriers, in facilitating understanding, tolerance and appreciation of cultures other than our own. Art is not just an expression of identity and culture, a means of social cohesion, a means to earn a living, it is also an important agent of change.

Freedom of expression is an essential condition for the practice of art, but it is only one dimension of artist rights, and artist rights are of course firmly based in human rights. This is the challenge that engages Artwatch Africa, to promote and defend these rights. The project is young, the challenges are enormous, but Arterial Network and like-minded partners, organisations and individuals have embarked on the journey with enthusiasm and commitment. There is much work to be done to conscientise artists, governments and society as to the intrinsic value of arts and culture for the wellbeing of our cities, countries, continent and its peoples. It is also a journey of discovery into the diverse contexts and ways of working in Africa. The experiences of the past year, presented in the Artwatch Africa Review 2014, have helped identify many of the concerns but have also precipitated hope and vision. Hope in an improved rights-based future, and the vision of thriving arts communities playing a significant part in development and democracy across Africa.

The Artwatch Africa Review 2014