Africa and the World
Blog post from the Director and CEO, Simon Brault
Africa and the World is the theme of the 2020 edition of the Marché des Arts du Spectacle d’Abidjan (MASA), which is taking place on the stages and in the streets of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from March 7 to 14. The Canada Council for the Arts enthusiastically accepted MASA Director Professor Yacouba Konaté’s proposal to make Canada this year’s special guest country. I am honoured and privileged to represent the Council at MASA.
This invitation came as an opportunity to:
- highlight the ties between Africa and its artistic diasporas;
- promote the current plurality of artistic expression in Canada; and
- underscore the cultural exchanges taking place between Canada and the African continent, which is experiencing a demographic, economic and digital boom.
The Council is proud to fund and coordinate Canada’s participation as special guest country at MASA. It is pleased with the collaborative spirit it has developed with its partners: Global Affairs Canada, the Embassy of Canada to Côte d’Ivoire, the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Québec Government Office in Abidjan. This initiative illustrates the amplifying role that Canadian cultural diplomacy can play in terms of our artists’ international presence and the development of trusting and mutually respectful relations between peoples.
The performances presented by more than 100 artists and groups supported by the Council, the presence of a delegation of some 15 presenters and festivals funded by Canadian Heritage, my own participation in a public discussion with Professor Konaté on decolonization and the numerous ceremonial and festive events planned in Abidjan are all opportunities to spark reflection, move audiences, foster short- and long-term artistic bonds and initiate conversations about topics of interest for both Canadians and Africans. I am absolutely certain that our encounters with artists from Africa or elsewhere around the world will be most inspiring and stimulating. I also know that the diplomatic staff will facilitate connections so that Canada’s exceptional presence leads to enduring outcomes.
Poet Aimé Césaire once said, “I believe there can be no liberation without creation.” This is a phrase that still resonates with all the world’s peoples who cherish freedom. In Canada, I often hear Indigenous artists evoke the direct link between artistic creation and decolonization, and I know the idea of decolonization is at the heart of the artistic process for many African artists. Setting foot in Africa for the very first time, I am keenly aware of the weight of history, the torments and legacy of colonization and the boundless resilience of the peoples of this continent brimming with rich and inextinguishable cultures.
I am also extremely curious to hear the voices of the artists that are coming together in Abidjan to share stories, songs, dances, music and artistic creations that celebrate life, build the imaginations of the future and envision a world where the freedom to dream and share one’s dreams is the foundation of human existence.