Zimbabwe, Nigera, Burkina Faso (August 2014)

Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Burkina Faso: Arterial Network’s Artwatch Africa programme organized a series of workshops this August where journalists, artists, human rights advocates and cultural activists gathered to discuss the state of freedom of creative expression on the continent.

Nigeria 15-17 august

« If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others. » This old proverb summarizes perfectly the spirit of the Artwatch Africa workshop organized in Lagos by the CORA Association/ Arterial Network Nigeria and led by Cameroonian Mabelle Nforchu from 15 to 17 of August. Coming from from all disciplines, and representing major artistic organizations of Nigeria as well as human rights organisations and media entities the gathering also included members of government. The forum provided valuable opportunity for vigorous engagement with George Nkanta, Director at the Federal Department of Culture, and also the General Manager of the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission.  The debates allowed for a sounder understanding of artistic and cultural rights and for a better perspective on future possibilities and actions. Even if the definition of culture is understood by all, the rights of artist aren’t as clearly defined. This intensive three-day training will help reinforce and strengthen the cultural and artistic sectors in Nigeria through intensified solidarity between actors. 

Zimbabwe, 20-22 August

Organized by the Pamberi Trust in Zimbabwe, with the support of Arterial Network Zimbabwe, the Artwatch Africa workshop was led by Simone Andrade, an external consultant of the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights. This was a rare opportunity for 17 participants to consider Human Rights from a different angle and to gain a deeper understanding of the Zimbabwean context. Moreover, it was an exciting knowledge and experience-sharing platform between young individuals, who are extremely proactive and engaged in the defense of freedom of artistic expression, as well as representatives of Arterial Network National Chapters of South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. The rich diversity of profiles and stories highlighted the difficulties of the sector in a country where artists, most especially women, have experienced repressive challenges for a long time. Though a lot of changes have happened over the last few years, freedom of artists isn’t wholly guaranteed. From the 20th to the 22ndof August, the Artwatch Africa training on cultural and artistic rights helped shine more light on the struggles and opportunities.

Burkina Faso, 25-27 August 

“Fighting for Human Rights and artistic rights is a permanent struggle, this is why we are here and why it’s never too late to learn and understand”, claimed Fatim Iboudou during the Artwatch Africa training organized by Arterial Network Burkina Faso and Semfilms with 21 participants. Indeed, Rights aren’t static; they evolve with time and change depending on their environment. This basic fact isn’t always easily understood. Much has been done in Burkina Faso in recent years for artists in terms of intellectual property and the development of creative industries yet artists unfortunately still face marginalization, governmental and societal censorship, as well as self-censorship. Another overarching question evoked for artists operating in Africa in general is the challenge of how artists defend and vindicate themselves in their respective cultural environments, within their own societies – this is a process  still in its developing stages…

Funders and partners of Artwatch Africa include Swedish Human Rights Foundation, Swedish Postcode Lottery, Swedish Institute, HIVOS, Mimeta, Goethe Institut and Doen Foundation.