Zimbabwe hosts international conference on African cultures

Charity Ruzvidzo

Harare – Zimbabwe’s national art gallery this week hosted over 60 local and international delegates in the arts and culture industry for the second International Conference on African Cultures (ICAC).   

The conference, which ran from the 11 to 13 September under the theme “Mapping the Future”, was aimed at discussing the future of, and the challenges currently affecting the continent’s arts and culture sector.

Some of the countries who were represented included Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Malawi, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Cuba.

The inaugural ICAC was held in 1962 in Salisbury.

It opened debate on the underplayed African contribution to the global art world as well as the sophistication and holistic nature of the continent’s visual culture.

 According to the National Art Gallery executive director, Doreen Sibanda, the second ICAC offered players in the arts and culture industry an opportunity to map the future for the arts.

“This conference brings people who are interested in African arts and culture together. They are able to discuss the challenges in the industry and maybe find ways to improve the continent’s arts sector, 55 years ago a similar conference was held focusing on the art of that time. This year’s conference is aimed at addressing art as we know it today and figuring out where we are going,” she said.

Sibanda said with adequate support the arts could play a huge role in the country’s economy.

“Africa has vast talent when it comes to the arts and culture sector. Though we have noted a significant appreciation of the arts, more support is still required for the sector to thrive and also contribute to the economy,” she said.

Sibanda said the greatest challenge in the African arts sector was how people were largely educated against developing a taste for the sector.

“We have had a systematic grinding down of the sector with some considering it unnecessary. Most Africans do not have an appreciation of arts because their minds were colonially taught that it is not important.

“However, we are glad that Zimbabwe has taken a first step and introduced arts and culture heritage in the school’s curriculum,” she said.

One of the main speakers at the conference, Professor Molefi Asante, said African culture must be defined by Africans.

“It is sad to note that most of the definitions of African arts and culture have been based on what white people believe to be our culture.  However, Africans must define their own culture and claim their rightful position in the arts sector,” he said.

According to the national gallery’s data, one of the ICAC’s main thrusts is to take art to the people who have largely been educated against appreciating the industry by nurturing conceptions of public that opens new spaces for the contemporary and setting foundations for the Afropolitan discourse in a means that potentially unearths interests and talents.

Some of the speakers at the conference included academics based in art institutions on the continent, curators, writers, artists, architects and cultural practitioners.

The conference proceedings included panel discussions, plenary sessions and tours to various nearby museums and galleries.

September 2017
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