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07 Oct 2021

Africa Insight: call for papers

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

To download the special issue click on the link below:

This planned Special Issue of Africa Insight builds on the theme chosen by the African Union (AU) for 2021 – Year of the Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want. The theme was suggested by the former President of Mali H.E. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and launched during the 34th AU Assembly under the leadership of the current Chairperson of the AU H.E. President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi, the President of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In his acceptance speech (Tshisekedi Tshilombo 2021), President Tshisekedi described arts, culture and heritage as ‘the heart of the African Renaissance’, and deemed the theme for 2021 as ‘an opportunity to return to our roots’. Quoting Léopold Sédar Senghor, he called culture ‘the beginning and the end of all things’.

Colonialists claimed their culture and values were universal. They constructed African indigenous identities as homogenous, unchanging, their cultures fixed and ahistorical. For the West, the ‘Other’ – stuck in the past and racially stereotyped – was regarded as being in need of ‘saving’ from primitiveness by the ‘modern’ European human. African societies, colonized, have had their economic and political systems reconfigured to exploit people and accumulate capital for the benefit of the West. Their cultures, denigrated and deemed useless, were mostly left out, negated, excluded, which in the end ‘allowed them to survive in silence, in the shadows, simultaneously scorned by their own modernized and westernized elites’ (Dussel 2012: 42).

These cultures, with their diverse economic and political models, scientific and technological innovations, and military conditions, represent an alterity with respect to European modernity, with which they have coexisted and have learned to respond in their own way to its challenges. Today, the forces of globalisation and capitalist development threaten to further erode African cultures, as elements of local cultures mix with ideas and solutions adopted from the ‘global’ culture. Cultural hybridities that develop as a result (Bhabha 1994) reveal underlying power relations, which direct the way the cultural interaction between the local and the global leads to the process of cultural transformation.

The 2021 theme draws inspiration directly from the AU Agenda 2063, which, through aspiration 5, puts culture in the centre of building a peaceful, prosperous, just and united Africa – in brief, the ‘Africa We Want’. Nonetheless, before this shared strategic framework for inclusive growth and sustainable development was adopted in 2015, the AU has long recognised the role that arts, culture and heritage play as the soul of Africa and has called on its State Parties to see in culture, arts and heritage catalysts for the socio-economic development and integration of the continent. The AU theme for 2021 is thus a continuation of the efforts of the continent towards a better Africa that recognises and values its culture-specific knowledges, cultural codes and ethics in the face of globalisation.

Aim of the Special Issue

The theme adopted by the AU for 2021 is aimed at ‘promoting the arts, culture and heritage sector and building a resilient Africa which provides primary health care and social services to all in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, and uses the creative economy as a tool to achieve that objective’. In line with this call, the aim of this Special Issue is to contribute intellectually, both as discipline-based scholarship and contribution to practice, to the 2021 Theme and the AU Roadmap, which stipulates the following areas as the basis of interventions (activities and programmes) within its objective:

Arts & Culture

Health, Wellness and Post COVID-19 Response

Languages

History and Oral Traditions

Heritage

Please submit an abstract of up to 300 words by 31 October 2021 to Dr Olga Bialostocka (obialostocka@hsrc.ac.za), the guest editor of this issue.

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)