By Mariama Marong
The African Union (AU) has on 25 March, 2021 held its second virtual forum for ministers responsible for arts, culture and heritage.
The forum was centred on the launching of the concept note and roadmap of this year’s theme “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want.”
The objectives of the Ministerial Virtual Conference included presenting the concept note on the theme for 2021, to reflect on the contributions of AU Members States on the implementation of the roadmap and share planned activities and programmes by AU Members States in line with the theme for 2021.
Ms Angela Martins, head of Culture Division, acting as the coordinator to the forum, said at the end of the meeting the concept note on the theme of this year will be disseminated and its key activities and timeframe on the roadmap will be popularized, shared and will also be adopted and launched.
Mr Dimitri Sanga, Director of Multisector Regional office for West and Sahel Africa, said the African continent needs to make culture and heritage as a development tool. He also called on African leaders to incorporate Arts and Culture within their framework.
Director Dimitri said this year’s theme should be a concrete action that will be crucial for the transformation of heritage. He said it is important to build and renew the cultural heritage site and work towards the advancement of culture within member states.
Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture, Ahmad N.K Bah, said it is important that arts, culture and heritage of Africa are not left behind. He said the continent should take them as serious matters.
“Because we need to understand our past and we need to recognise our past and we need to respect our past, honour our past and preserve it with wisdom and ability to focus on the future of Africa. And we have to use our past to build on our future,” he said.
Minister Bah emphasized the need to value the importance of arts, culture and heritage, which he said, will be reflected on attitudinal change towards culture within member states.
He said Africans imitate lots of foreign cultures and forget about their own cultures, adding that architectural culture should be used in building African cities and towns.
The public servant stressed the negative impact of COVID -19 on the sector, which he said, has hit the Gambian job market and the rest of the world is not an exception.
Bah said the government of the Gambia through the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) has disbursed millions to artistic associations and to over 300 artists through a COVID 19 relief fund last year.
He said through funding from the German National Commission for UNESCO and German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNESCO world heritage sites received support for skills training for guides and women. And the activities were meant to develop community outreach and dialogue.
As of recent, he said, NCAC is finalizing with UNESCO–ECOWAS an awareness raising program on the prevention of COVID -19.