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Accra hosts 2022 World Day for African and Afrodescendant Culture

 Rocky Dawuni delivering his keynote speech

The global celebration of the World Day for African and Afrodescendant Culture has taken place in Accra, with participants from four regions, namely Africa, Europe, North and South America, culminating with the appearance of the renowned Ghanaian reggae musician Rocky Dawuni urging Africans and Afrodescendants to embrace their culture and share their story through digital means. 

Mr Dawuni, two-time Grammy nominee and ambassador for the celebration, commended the initiative’s advocacy to make the General History of Africa an integral part of the educational system, emphasizing the potential of the celebration as a platform to tell the true story of Africans and the diaspora.

 
Significance of the day

UNESCO adopted 24 January as the World Day for African and Afrodescendant Culture at the 40th session of the UNESCO General Conference in 2019. It celebrates the many vibrant cultures of the African continent and African Diasporas around the world, and promotes them as an effective force for dialogue, sustainable development and peace.

The founder of the day and the President of African Network of Cultural Promoters and Entrepreneurs (RAPEC), Mr. John Ayité Dossavi, wanted Ghana to be the first anglophone country to host the global celebration. The nomination brought several government entities, civil society organisations and private institutions in Ghana together to organise a gathering that would honour and highlight African and African descendant cultures in their diversity and actuality.

 
Colloquium 

The celebration featured a three-part colloquium under the theme “African and Afrodescendant culture for peace and sustainable development”. The aim was to stimulate an intellectual discourse around critical themes concerning both Africans and people of African descent, namely, the incorporation of African history and culture in education, the intangible heritage as levers for the transmission of history, and reconciliation. The full-day colloquium allowed for contributions to be made by notable speakers from different parts of Africa and across the diaspora, including Colombia, France, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, USA, and Switzerland. Each session was followed by fruitful discussions with participants both online and in person. 

 
Key messages

Representing the UNESCO Director General, Ms Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Culture, Mr Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, emphasized the need of Africans and Afrodescendants to reclaim ownership over the narration of their own history and revive their cultural identities to strengthen a shared aspiration to achieve African unity.

We need to teach our children about the history of Africa, remind ourselves of the rich and diverse shared heritage of the African people in the continent and across the diaspora and correct misconceptions and stereotypes about Africa and its diaspora.
Mr Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Culture

He went on to remind the participants about the key role of intangible cultural heritage in the transmission of history and the unique opportunity to learn about the African and Afro-descendant history through the 28 Forts and Castles along the coastline of Ghana. The UNESCO World Heritage site shaped the course of history of the world for centuries as the center of the gold and slave trade and the properties serve as a pivotal reminder of the turbulent early European-African encounters, as well as the onset of the imposed diaspora of African people, he said. 

Ghana’s commitment to host the World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture provides a platform for Africa and its diaspora to unite and strengthen their ties. On behalf of the government of Ghana, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mr Mark Okraku Mantey, said he believed the initiative would extend the flagship programme 'Beyond the Return' of the Government of Ghana by showcasing the rich Ghanaian cultural heritage to the world. 

As the representative of the sixth region of Africa, i.e. the diaspora, the Diaspora African Forum (DAF) Ambassador, Dr Erieka Bennett, took the opportunity to announce that the newly created flag for the Diaspora would be launched in February during Black History Month by both the DAF as well as various diaspora groups and organisations around the world.

The Colombian Ambassador to Ghana and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, H.E. Claudia Turbay Quintero, emphasized the commitment of Colombia to empower the voice of diaspora communities as the country in the Americas with the third largest afro-descendant population. “Education and arts are the two main tools for strengthening the identity of the African and Afro-descendants”, she added. 

In his speech, the President of the 41st General Conference of UNESCO and Ambassador of the Permanent Delegate of Brazil to UNESCO, Mr Santiago Irazabal Mourão highlighted the important role of culture and creativity as drivers and enablers of social cohesion and inclusion. One of the many examples of Afrodescendant culture in Brazil is the Capoeira circle, which is a symbol for the history of black resistance during and after slavery in Brazil. Its inscription on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage reinforced its importance as African cultural heritage, which was once repressed and criminalized during a period of resilient history.

The role of the traditional leaders was highlighted by the representative of the Ga Mantse, Nii Ahene Nunoo III, who spoke on the behalf of President of the Ga Traditional Council, Ga Mantse, Nii Tackie Teiko Tsuru II. In his statement, he expressed the support of the Ga Mantse to the celebration. “UNESCO has brought us together to promote our culture”, he said and urged Africans to hold it together and support the ideas of UNESCO agenda. 

During his speech, UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana, Mr Charles Abani, highlighted other commemorations and observances that demonstrate the commitment of the UN to the peoples of Africa and the Afro-descendant community, such as the International Day for People of African Descent (31 August), the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition (23 August) and the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) as well as the interconnectedness of International Jazz Day and its deep roots in African and Afrodescendant culture. He also encouraged the creative sector especially the publishing industry to take advantage of Accra named UNESCO World Book Capital 2023 to work on subjects related to the General History of Africa and Africa and its Diaspora

The last person to speak during the high-level opening of the celebration was the Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (Mayor of Accra), Elizabeth Naa Kwatsoe Tawiah Sackey, who shared her inspiring message for the African and Afrodescendant people. “Together with you we can stand here today and say: forge ahead!”, she declared before closing the session. 

More information

Stakeholders
African Network of Cultural Promoters and Entrepreneurs (RAPEC)
Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MoTAC)
United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
Association of African Universities (AAU)
African Union (AU)
Pan African Historical Theatre Festival (PANAFEST)
Musician Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) 
Ghana Culture Forum (GCF)
Pan African Writers Association (PAWA)
Diaspora African Forum (DAF)
Ghana National Commission for UNESCO
Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA)
National Commission for Culture (NCC)
 
Resources 
Video documentary explaining the integration process of the GHA in the Competency-Based Curriculum in Kenya 
History of Africa with Zeinab Badawi
General History of Africa

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