The African Culture Fund (ACF), a pan-African organisation that supports creativity and professionalism cultural sector, cultural diversity, and social justice, is preparing to host its first cohort of cultural practitioners across Africa in late 2021 in its inaugural academy.
The academy, a boot camp designed to strengthen the profession of creative arts on the continent, will draw 18 participants from eight West African countries namely, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo.
The Bamako, Mali, based organisation stated that it achieved gender balance with the choice of the participants as half of the participants are women.
However, the largest contingent to the boot camp is from the host country, Mali, which is represented by Assétou Diallo, Sadio Coulibaly, Souleymane Bathieno, and Sikadie Samake in the academy billed to be held between November 24 and December 6, 2021.
ACF’s interim administrator, Abdoulaye Konaté, says the sessions of the boot camp will be conducted in strict compliance with COVID-19 health precautions that include temperature checks, regular handwashing, mandatory masking, and the use of hydro-alcoholic gel.
“The boot camp will give on-site courses,” Mr Konaté remarked in an interview. “To this end, the selected candidates will travel to Ségou [in Mali] for more dynamic and participatory sessions,” he added.
The academy is particularly timely as a more sustainable planet is being envisioned by world leaders for better post-Covid economic recovery.
Therefore, African creatives and cultural managers ought to occupy spaces in which their works help international policymakers communicate fresh ideas using local mediums for easier and faster transmissibility at the grassroots.
The financial subsidy for the boot camp came from the Swiss Cooperation in Mali, but the Kôrè Institute for Arts and Crafts, a specialised higher education establishment founded in 2013 to promote and develop the art and culture professions in Africa, will provide technical assistance.
The proposed sessions of the academy are expected to cover topics such as cultural entrepreneurship, governance of cultural organisations, mediation and dialogue between cultures, digitalisation and creative innovation, and personal development through a mentoring and coaching programme.
The personal development programme is an important aspect of the boot camp because cultural practitioners usually work solo and seldom enjoy the camaraderie that comes from working in an office building, hence initiatives that foster intellectual exchange among African creatives can be personally engaging and professionally enriching for these independent workers.
Loukou Jean-Marie Konan, another selected candidate from Côte D’Ivoire, learned about the academy online.
Although Mr Konan is not an artist, he manages 18 clubs under the aegis of CUAC—Comité Universitaire d’Action Culturelle—an organisation created by students for the promotion of art and culture in academia.
Mr Konan’s organisation works in several cultural fields—music, dance, theatre, literature, and painting.
“I wanted to improve my knowledge and [develop] competence in management to do more for CUAC and cultural organizations in my country,” Mr Konan said, explaining his motivation for applying for the boot camp.
Ganiyat Sani, Nigeria’s sole representative at the academy, is also an early-career cultural manager, having only worked in the sector for three years.
Ms Sani’s primary medium of expression in fashion and visual arts. Besides the risks of sexual harassment since most decision-makers in the cultural industry are men, she says the lack of mentoring is a big problem that confronts women in their creative trajectory.
“Women experience a lack of confidence in their creative works,” she remarked, “because of stereotypes and preconceived notions of what women ought to be doing.”
During the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, Ms Sani explained that cancellations of exhibitions affected her work as Nigeria’s federal health authorities imposed restrictions on public gatherings including industry events.
She is nevertheless optimistic that technology will give African creatives and cultural professionals easier access to global markets, thus presenting new channels of generating profits and building networks.
A 2021 UNESCO report revealed a US$750 billion drop in the Gross Value Added (GVA) generated in 2020 by the cultural and creative industries (CCIs) globally, relative to the preceding year.
In comparison, this figure amounts to around 1% of nominal global GDP. The estimated contraction three-quarters of a $1 trillion in the global GVA of CCIs corresponds to upwards of 10 million job losses in the sector across the world in 2020.
Self-employed cultural practitioners are said to have experienced the most losses in the creative industry.
“During the pandemic, some artists became indebted because of loss of inflows from art sales,” says Abolore Sobayo, the founder of the Jelosinmi Art Center in Oshodi, a bustling suburb of Lagos.
Mr Sobayo is an alumnus of the Yaba College of Technology and has worked as an artist for a decade and a half. “This put them in a bad spot.”
Mr Sobayo says artists need more funding to undertake their cultural productions. He bemoans the fact that more of the funds for creative professionals go to Nollywood, Nigeria’s famous film industry to the detriment of other sectors in the creative and cultural industry.
He added that volatility in exchange rates has contributed to higher operating costs since Nigerian artists depend on foreign components in their practice.
The African Culture Fund is planning similar boot camps for other African regions: in Tunisia for applicants from North Africa, Kinshasa for Central Africa, Johannesburg for Southern Africa, and Kenya/Seychelles for East Africa.
According to ACF’s administrator, the Kôrè Institute for Arts and Crafts will issue specialty certificates to participants who complete the academy and provide professional mentoring over the next 18 months after the end of the course.
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