Creative Cities gathers momentum

Source: Creative Cities gathers momentum | The Herald May 15, 2017

Sonny Wadaw Correspondent
Arterial Network Zimbabwe recently held a meeting which saw a new executive headed by Butholezwe Nyathi being elected, but critically the Harare meeting considered ways to speed up their Creative Cities programme towards implementation.

The Creative Cities programme, while based on networking, capacity building and advocacy, essentially seeks to bring to the fore the criticality of the creative sector’s contribution to the economies of African cities. Four cities are spearheading the Creative Cities programme.

They are Harare in Zimbabwe, Nouakchott in Mauritania, Pointe-Noire in the Congo Republic and Victoria Mahe in Seychelles.

Immediate past chair of Arterial Network Zimbabwe, Peter Churu, said the four had emerged as successful bidders out of 16 African cities that were vying to be among the first to roll out the Creative Cities programme.

Mamou Daffe, chairman of Arterial Network Africa, flew in for the workshop and launch phase of the Creative Cities, while Dr Jenny Mbaye, a lecturer and researcher in Culture and Creative Industries at the City University London, has been offering her expertise.

Dr Jenny Mbaye, who has been working with Arterial Network as a resource person, believes there is need to see culture as an enabler of social development as well as an economic avenue for further development.

For her, the role of civil society encompasses informing, raising awareness and engagement with local authorities on issues that concern civil society with local.

She cited three current examples of this form of partnership as evidenced by Creative Cape Town, House of Urban Culture in Dakar, in Senegal, and in Casablanca, Morocco, where there is project on cultural animation.

The outcome that the programme seeks to establish is a network of cities that have a vibrant cultural life that is sustainable and supports human development.

Declaring his passion for this programme, Mamou Daffe said Africa must assert itself on the world stage as an important cultural player between the citizens of the continent. “Africa is rising and Africans are making a difference. The programme will derive legitimacy from engaging civil society.”

This rollout initiative follows the launch of a pilot project of “Segou Creative City of Arterial Network” on the margins of the Festival sur le Niger in February 2014 in Ségou, Mali.

During the initial phase of rolling out the programme, Arterial Network Africa then organised a preparatory workshop in Johannesburg in early December 2015 to undertake an analysis of the situation on the continent, of various cities and their creativity.

The workshop explored ways of locating arts and culture at the forefront of urban policies, strategies and programmes and facilitating closer engagement between local authorities and civil society organisations, Arterial Network being an example among many others.

Guiding the participants was how to integrate culture within the work of local authorities and aligning policies to the role of culture as enunciated by the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, which is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.

Culturally, its goal is a continent with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics.

The Johannesburg workshop proved an opportunity to develop a programme that is expected to meet the demands of the creative sector as it drew on deliberations with African mayors and local authorities.

The involvement of the local authorities is to understand their contribution in the promotion and reinforcement of the role of arts and culture in agenda 2063. If it is accepted that culture is what shapes people, it cannot be left out of the Agenda 2063. Instead, it must therefore be viewed and embraced as a driver of sustainable development.

While the launch in Harare, Zimbabwe, is in May, Pointe Noire, in the Republic of Congo, and Victoria Mahé, in the Seychelles is in June and finally in Nouakchott in Mauritania will be in July.

These cities were selected following a call for applications, launched in September 2016, to be part of the Arterial Network’s African Creative Cities Programme for the period 2016-2018.

The selected creative cities commenced a research and analysis phase from January 2017 in order to garner a good knowledge of the cultural environment of their locality so that they can develop a project management model and identify the critical areas of the creative development of their cities, which will form the basis of the new cultural development policy, accompanied by a Program for Sustainable Cultural Development. Through this programme, Arterial Network is committed to facilitating co-operation and partnerships between local authorities and cultural actors in a way that contributes to the development and implementation of artistic and cultural policies, strategies and programmes in African cities.

The Harare workshop considered the goals and strategies for the implementation of the cultural dimension of Agenda 2063 by African local authorities and ways in which civil society can partner with authorities for implementation. Butholezwe Nyathi, the new chair for Arterial Network Zimbabwe, and the new team immediately began canvassing for ideas on how they can make a difference in implementing projects on the road to a creative Harare.

Farai Mpfunya, the executive director of the Culture Fund, suggested formulation of a campaign to guide implementation of projects by Arterial Network Zimbabwe.

For Nigel Munyati from the Zimbabwe International Film Festival, one of the advantages the new team has is that it has all the support of the old board members, who stand ready to guide implementation of projects.

Arterial Network is a dynamic, civil society network of artists, cultural activists, entrepreneurs, enterprises, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), institutions and donors active in Africa’s creative and cultural sectors. Bjorn Maes, the co-ordinator of Africalia, who was in Harare for the workshop, is representative of the donors.

Established as a member-based, non-profit organisation, Arterial Network was formed in 2007 in Senegal, operates across all the continent and is led by an elected steering committee which represents the five regions of the continent. In Zimbabwe Arterial Network has been operating for the past eight years.

Culture plays a crucial role in the sustainable development of cities and territories and is a driving force for sustainable human development as well as a source of creativity and innovation. It is also a catalyst for sustainability through its specific contributions that promote social equity, inclusive economic progress, environmental balance and sustainable local development.

When the value of arts and culture is recognised in its own right and in the same way as political and economic imperatives, cities and their citizens benefit directly.

There is also the attendant sense of belonging due to the pride of being part of a creative city and economic opportunities that are derived from the development of creative industries, as well as social cohesion with the promotion of peace through the arts, and the enhancement of the potential of cultural tourism.

With this Arterial Network African Creative Cities programme, the network intends to converge its efforts in order to bring about significant impact within the cities, particularly on a social level.

For Mamou Daffé, the chair of Arterial Network, culture and art play a contributory role towards social cohesion to a large degree. He points out that this impact is also seen through contributions to the local and national economy, particularly seen against the background of festivals such as Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar and Festival sur le Niger in Mali, which are able to sustain the local economy and tourism in the region.

In order to achieve its objectives, the programme encompasses networking, capacity building and advocacy. Capacity building in cultural management, networking between creative cities and, finally, advocacy that will take cultural policies into account. — Panorama.