To celebrate the sixth edition of African World Heritage Day, on the 5th of May, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre (WHC) in collaboration with the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) hosted a webinar under the African Union's (AU) theme for 2021: "Arts, culture and heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want".
The Director of the WHC, Ms Mechtild Rössler, inaugurated the event with an opening address on the resilience of African heritage and local stakeholders in facing the present challenges of preservation, while emphasizing the synergy of different UNESCO Culture Conventions to bring culture as an expression of the richness of Africa to the very centre of its socio-economic development.
“This year’s theme calls upon us to take culture as a whole and work together and ensure the coordination and harmonisation of our policies. Indeed, bringing culture to the heart of development is a crucial investment in the world's future.” Ms Rössler insisted.
This intervention was followed by H.E. Ms Amira Elfadil, Commissioner for Social Affairs of the AU Commission, whose comprehensive address elaborated on the role arts, culture and heritage can play as catalysts in Africa's sustainable growth and integration. H.E. the Commissioner also mentioned the importance of the implementation of all UNESCO Conventions and called for more representativity of African sites on the World Heritage List.
“The AU Agenda 2063 clearly stressed the need for African Union Member States to protect and promote our heritage. The Chapter for African Renaissance of 2006 which entered into force recently has clear precisions of issues related to heritage,” she stated.
In line with the challenges that African World Heritage is facing, the Director of the AWHF, Mr Souayibou Varissou, stressed the significance of this day not just for Africans and Africa but for the whole international community, in order to create a critical mass for the advocacy, funding and sustainable management of African heritage. “We should be reminded that the “Africa We Want” is in our Agenda 2063 and it has been rooted in the Pan African vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by his own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena,” said Mr Varissou.
The experts participating in the webinar discussed the synergies and challenges of implementing the different UNESCO Culture Conventions in Africa as they are interconnected and their joint implementation is crucial for the sustainable development of Africa. They expressed the call in unison, for increasing investment in culture and capacity-building to support present and future generations of African heritage professionals.
As the aim of the webinar was to bring together all those who work for African heritage and, in particular, the youth, the webinar included an encouraging message from the African World Heritage Youth Forum, which has been celebrating African heritage since 29th April. The message ended with the inspiring words of two African UNESCO Chairs and the poetry reading by Ms Eileen Almeida Barbosa, a Cabo Verdean author who has been selected as one of the 39 most promising under-40 writers in Africa.
Following the webinar (where more than 135 participants joined and watched the discussion), the closing ceremony of the Youth Forum and three live sessions took place on Instagram. The Day’s celebration ended with a musical performance by internationally acclaimed musician Dela Botri and his band, a drawing session by fine artist Zakaria Gnaoui and a DJ set by creative director and DJ Jeune Lio.