Friday, 24 July 2009

Cultural Renaissance | Algeria

Algiers festival to mark African "cultural renaissance"

The upcoming Pan-African Festival is being fêted as a major event marking Africa’s return to the international cultural stage. For the first time in forty years, African nations will join together to celebrate the continent's artistic revival.
By Mouna Sadek for Magharebia in Algiers – 19/04/09

[Getty Images] Algerian Minister of Culture Khalida Toumi announces PanAf 2009.

African artists will showcase the diversity and creative heritage of their continent at the second Pan-African Festival, which will be held in Algiers from July 5th-20th under the theme "African Renaissance". For two weeks, the stirring rhythms of Africa will pulsate across Algeria.

"Forty years after the famous PanAf of 1969, Algeria will once again celebrate Africa’s cultural renaissance. Algeria is back! And so is Africa!" Algerian Culture Minister Khalida Toumi proclaimed at an Algiers press conference held last month to detail plans for the historic celebration.

Forty-four of the fifty-three member states of the African Union have already confirmed their participation in the festival. Absentees include Morocco, which is not a member of the AU. Other countries invited to attend PanAf 2009 include those with African Diaspora communities, such as Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, and the United States.

"We expect to receive around 8,000 artists, intellectuals, delegates, journalists, and official guests," Toumi said.

Minister for African and Maghreb Affairs Abdelkader Messahel said he hoped PanAf 2009 would be a "starting-point for the revival of African cultural activity", one that would be based on "dynamic cooperation with partners from developed countries".

Panaf 2009 will showcase the richness, beauty, and emotion that characterise the continent and focus on African creativity and genius in drama, music, dance, film, literature, cartoons, visual arts, and traditional crafts.

The programme includes exhibitions of contemporary African art, design, photography, fashion design, architecture, and the Sahara. A dozen or so symposia and conferences will touch on subjects ranging from colonialism in Africa, the origins of the human race and zaouia tidjania to theatre and financing film productions in Africa.

African literature will be in the spotlight, with an international youth literature forum and a writer-in-residence programme in Algiers for African authors and publishers. New editions of more than 200 major African works will also be issued to coincide with the event.

An African film festival will screen recent productions, including a Liamine Merbah documentary portraying Algeria as a haven for African liberation movements. Major African directors, including Algerians Mohamed Lakhdar Hamina and Rachid Bouchareb, will contribute five-minute films to a unique montage addressing African development.
Drama will also be a part of the festival. Some 27 theatre performances are planned, 14 of them Algerian. Staging the festival, however, will be an expensive operation. While Algeria is spending 55 million euros on the event, officials say this sum falls short of what is required.

"We need another 5.5 million euros," Khalida Toumi said. "We’ll do everything we can to get hold of it. We’re in touch with sponsors and will publish the list of all partners once the contracts have been finalised. Africa is a continent of the future. Many large companies are interested in taking a high profile here." Most of the money will be spent on building an artists' residence in Zeralda (west of Algiers) with a capacity of 2,500 beds. The Village des Artistes, designed on the model of the Olympic villages, will feature 24 buildings.

The ultimate goal of all the extraordinary preparations, festival communications officer Zouaoui Benhamadi said in an interview with Egyptian radio station Sawt El-Arab, is for PanAf 2009 to cement "a cultural, economic, political, and social union of all African countries".

"It should become an institution," he added.

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