09.05.2013 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Villagers celebrate new Cultural Centre in Toubacouta, Senegal

Men and women from some 50 villages around Toubacouta came to celebrate and demonstrate the rich cultural diversity of the region ©UNESCO/Anne Müller

It was a burst of colors, singing and dancing when the new Cultural Centre in Toubacouta, a village in Central Senegal, was inaugurated on Sunday 5 May 2013.

The Centre is the result of a joint UN project lead by UNESCO's Regional Office in Dakar.

One village after the other performed showing the rich cultural diversity of the Delta de Saloum region.

All speakers expressed their gratitude for this new cultural centre, which is the result of the MDG-F project on Culture and Development in Senegal. The project ran from 2009-2012 and was financed through a donation of $6.5 million from the Government of Spain. It covered two regions in Senegal, the Delta de Saloum and the Bassari Country.

Men and women from 50 villages across the Delta de Saloum region celebrated the new Centre in the presence of the Minister of Culture, the Minister of Good Governance, local authorities, representatives from five United Nations agencies, artists, artisans, local actors and other technical partners such as community-based organizations.

“Dear people of Toubacouta, we now give you a large cultural center, use it with care and be creative,” said Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director of UNESCO's Regional Office in Dakar. “This space, if properly managed, will undoubtedly enhance the creativity of artists, artisans and local development actors to promote crafts, tourism and culture in your beautiful area. Everyone should do his or her best so that craftsmen and artists can live from their art”.

Mrs Ndong-Jatta also thanked the Government of Spain or their generous contribution. 

UNESCO coordinated the MDG-F project in close cooperation with UNDP (UN Development Programme), UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

The first of its kind

“This Cultural Centre is the first of its kind in Senegal,” said the Minister of Culture, Abdoul Aziz Mbaye. A similar centre is under finalization in the Bassari Country under the same project.

Mr Mbaye said that such structures should be replicated across Senegal as they constitute a cornerstone in the development of a creative economy.

"It will give appropriate appreciation of the artistic and cultural talents through the promotion of ecotourism and the creation of sustainable decent jobs for young people and women," he said. 

"We have decided to give the name 'L'esplanade des Asturies' to the area in front of the artisan market to pay tribute to the generosity of the Spanish people," the Minister of Culture added.

Much more than a place to perform

The Toubacouta Culture Centre is much more than just a place to perform. It consists of:

  • A main building with one big space and several smaller rooms which will be used for events, performances, training, etc. Some equipment is already available, including sewing machines, kitchen appliances and hairdressing equipment;
  • An exhibition hall, a tourism office, an open-air stage;
  • Facilities for early childhood care and development; and
  • Spaces for women and youth.

“The project demonstrates that it is possible to develop a region through  culture,” said Mrs Ndong-Jatta. She added that the cultural centre has been conceived in close partnership with governmental structures covering culture, tourism, crafts, environment and the family.

The project has also included training  of local artists and artisans on copyright, marketing and choreography.

“It is also an example of joint efforts by five UN agencies in “Delivering as One,” she said and added: “I remain convinced that efficient management of this Cultural Centre help to develop the great potential of culture and tourism in your beautiful region.”

The inauguration ceremony lasted about seven hours and included a visit to the new premises.

An exhibition on the cultural diverstiy of the region was on display, a band performed on the open-air stage and artisans sold their local goods. 

The villagers continued their dance and performances throughout the evening.

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