Africa Nouveau Festival, copyright Meklit Mersha

At the British Council, our work is about sparking connections between groups and across borders.  As such we were honoured to host a group of artists and programmers from sub-Saharan African (SSA) shores recently.  Accompanied by British Council arts colleagues from the region, Nadine Patel and Millicent Mugabi, they came to share insight into the vibrant, multi-disciplinary and youth-led creative work arising out of Africa.

Guests from across the Scottish cultural sector heard about current projects in the region and opportunities for collaboration.

Based in Lagos, Nigeria, Oyindamola Fakeye shared insight from across the West African nations of Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone.  Oyindamola spoke of the influence of the political and economic landscape in shaping the creative sector.  She highlighted that many creatives from Sierra Leone identify themselves first by a non-creative profession such as being a banker or a lawyer with their creative practice as a secondary identity.  Whilst in Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal creatives are all polymaths, something that resonated with the Scottish audience. 

From Southern Africa, Lonwabo Mavuso drew attention to Africa’s demographic as the youngest continent in the world.  He spoke of the innovative ways young Africans embrace the artistic application of digital technologies, how they respond to big topics such as decolonisation and are driven by freedom of expression.

Then, poet and short story writer Harriet Anena from Uganda shared her own journey as a writer, from a process of self-exploration, gaining the confidence and finding routes to publish to now being recognised as one of the most talented poets in Africa.  She shared examples of the growth of the art and literature sector across the East African region, highlighting how children’s literature has taken root and the specific initiatives which are contributing to the nurture of a reading culture.  Harriet also drew attention to how key mobility is with creatives working across borders throughout the region.

The British Council’s SSA arts programming team, Millicent and Nadine, spoke about how they help package opportunities and support for different communities of young people aged 18-35 years.  Opportunities are framed around cultural enterprise, connecting and festivals.

Everything the team does is an attempt to be sensitive and responsive to the sector. 

Millicent and Nadine shared a video titled The Makers which showcases a visit by Alex Ropes, co-founder and creative director of British streetwear brand, Basement Approved to Africa Nouveau, a music and arts festival in Nairobi.  Alex talks about how the visit shattered prejudices around “everything in Africa being under-developed”, how inspired he was by the creative young people he met and the progressive nature of the creative scene.

You can find a link to the video here.

Finally, Millicent and Nadine reminded us of the opportunities that are open each year for Scottish artists and arts organisations to collaborate with their counterparts in SSA.  Details of the variety of opportunities made available annually by the team can be found on British Council’s SSA website.
There was also a heads up to an open call for curators and programmers scoping grants which will go live in November 2019.

To keep up to date with British Council’s work in the region and to find out more about arts in Africa you can sign up to our Africa Arts Newsletter here.

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