YAKAAR graduates boost West African performing arts sector

Students of West Africa’s YAKAAR Training Centre for the Performing Arts try out their new skills. Photo Credit: YAKAAR

West Africa boasts one of the world’s most stunning arrays of music production. Based in Senegal – a capital for world music fans – Optimiste Produktions is among the leading producers of audiovisual products, live shows and festivals in the region. Recently the Organization used support from UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity to help establish a much-needed training center to assist young industry professionals across West Africa to gain specialist skills.

Following a student selection processes, in 2011 the YAKAAR Centre for the Performing Arts opened its doors to scores of trainees from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. Participating professionals took four-month long courses in the fields of sound, lighting, electricity and stage-setting. They also learned about copyright, funding, budget planning, and managing music festivals.

YAKAAR means ‘hope’ in Wolof, a language widely spoken in West Africa. True to its name, Togolese participant Edem Kodzo Agbevohia said the Centre enabled him to expand his professional horizons.

“The training gave me a solid base to organize a big event in a professional way,” he explained. “I now know how to manage the team made available to me, and analyze the technical, logistical and security aspects with a practical and appropriate approach.”

The training was followed by six-week long internships at leading venues such as the grand theatre or at radio and television stations. Another participant Abdoulaye Ben Diatta, from Senegal, said this practical, hands-on element of the programme was a welcome chance to meet experts and leading media professionals. “We discovered state-of-the-art technologies … thanks to this programme, we have developed a partnership with the Director of TV5 Afrique,” he said.

In addition to the skills and hands-on experience gained, participants also got the chance to develop lasting professional and personal relationships with other young professionals.

With the first batch of participants now using their skills and new networks back in the workforce, this novel project has received high praise along with positive media coverage. This recognition has helped YAKAAR to gain the confidence of existing and future partners. Meanwhile, the participants are now a valuable resource for the regional performing arts sector, and YAKAAR plans that they will provide mentoring to future students.

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