A CREATIVE TRADITION!
Culture once bound people together in a single national identity. Now it is a source of national wealth integrated into the country’s growth strategy.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Burkina Faso hosts over 112 festivals and cultural events nationwide: culture is not just the country’s oil, wealth and bet on the future, but also the glue holding the nation together, a cornerstone of social peace and cohesion (see the interview with minister Baba Hama, p. VI). Approximately 60 ethnic groups, a mosaic of languages and cultures, traditions to preserve, modernity blooming in contemporary creations by actors, writers, choreographers, painters and musicians and dialogue between folklore and contemporary arts contribute to the country’s exciting cultural scene.
In May 2012 UNESCO and the Burkina Faso statistics office (BBEA) published a study about culture’s impact on economic and social development on behalf of the Ministry of Culture. The findings show that 164,592 people 1.78% of the working age population employed in 2009 have culture-related jobs. The same year, culture accounted for 79.7 billion FCFA (€121.5 million), or 2.02%, of GDP. In 2011 the value of cultural exports rose to 13 billion (€19.8 million), 20% more than in 2010.
Ouagadougou, the vibrant capital, hosts 28 festivals, including the landmark PanAfrican Film Festival (FESPACO) the pride of the whole country the famous International Crafts Fair (SIAO), music, theatre, comedy, dance and fashion festivals as well as a wide variety of performance halls, rehearsal studios, concert bars and other venues.
Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s secondbiggest city and a cultural centre in its own right, hosts 13 events, including National Culture Week (SNC), a unique competition that pits Burkina Faso’s 13 regions against each other at the huge new Palace of Culture.
Kaya, Fada N’Gourma and Koudougou, where the famous Atypical Nights of Koudougou (NAK) takes place, host around 10 events.
A DRIVER OF JOB CREATION AND WEALTH
Aware that culture is a major tourist draw (the Ministry of Culture is also responsible for tourism) and a powerful driving force in a country with a very low human development index (183rd in 187 according to UNDP’s 2013 ranking), officials have included it in the Sustainable Development and Accelerated Growth Strategy (SCADD) and adopted an national culture policy (PNC).
The BBEA is an in-depth sales pitch and a public policy blueprint that makes recommendations to preserve, promote and support cultural heritage and train people working in culture-related fields.
On 24 October 2012 the council of ministers took matters further by issuing a decree creating the status of the artist. “Artist,” the decree states, “is taken to mean any person who creates or gives creative expression to or re-creates works of art, who considers artistic creation to be an essential part of his or her life, who contributes in this way to the development of art and culture and who is or asks to be recognized as an artist, whether or not he or she is bound by any relations of employment or association. The term artist includes writers and performers.”
The decree also creates taxation geared towards various situations many performers work intermittently; some are salaried employees while others work freelance and recognises their contribution to the “enrichment” and “affirmation of the cultural identity of Burkina Faso’s people”. Lastly, it sets up the National Arts Council (CNA), a “permanent framework for dialogue between professional artists and their partners”. The decree meets with the satisfaction of those mainly concerned, who are increasingly forming associations or other kinds of groups.
Stage director Étienne Minoungou (see p. VIII) was the driving force behind the February 2010 creation of the Artists and Intellectuals for Culture Coalition, which brings together philosophers, researchers, economists, slammers, filmmakers and others to discuss issues raised by creation. “The goal is to do concerted, well-grounded lobbying,” says Mr. Minoungou, who got the idea after taking part in a think tank in Benin. One of the coalition’s main aims is to convince the government to boost funding for culture. “If you look at the revenues culture generates,” he says, “it’s obvious it deserves more State funding. No other area has contributed so much to our country, so give culture more money!” In the long term, the group intends to set up a pan-African coalition to “back the African peoples’ struggle for progress and freedom”.
A 14-HECTARE OPERA-VILLAGE
If any proof is needed of Burkina Faso’s status is a cultural beacon abroad, this is the country German director Christoph Schlingensief chose for his “opera-village” project, whose cornerstone was laid in February 2010. Mr. Schlingensief died prematurely in August of the same year, but his wife and trusted Burkina Faso collaborators picked up the torch. World famous architect Francis Keré designed the project to seamlessly blend in with nature. The village, which lies nearly opposite the Laongo granite sculpture park (see p. VII) around 30 kilometres from Ouagadougou, already has several buildings, including a school, offices and housing. A performance hall, clinic, playing field and other facilities will eventually fill the 14-hectare site made available by the government. The village aims to be a selfcontained cultural centre focusing entirely on artistic education and creation. The local population has received its keys.
By Sarah ELKAÏM
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