Address by Ms. Angela Martins, Head of Culture Division, Department of Social Affairs, African Union Commission

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11 Mar 2015

Protocol

It is was with great enthusiasm and honour that the African Union Commission (AUC) received the invitation to take part at  this important gathering, the NEPAD Regional Conference on Arts Education being held in Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa.

I bring you warm greetings from H.E. Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner for Social Affairs, who wanted to be here with us today but could not due to other equally important previously arranged work commitments.   

Allow me to start by expressing our gratitude to the Government of the Republic of South Africa through its Department of Arts and Culture and to the NEPAD Agency for co-organizing this important regional conference which is the beginning of a series of similar events aimed at reflecting and mapping the continents’ position on this important issue, the teaching of the arts.     The process will culminate with the drafting of the SADC Policy Framework on Arts Education and convening the Continental Conference on Arts Education.

We would like congratulate the Department of Arts and Culture and the NEPAD Agency for convening this 1st important gathering to brainstorm on the development of the southern Africa regional plan for Arts Education which will serve as a guide and reference tool for the other Africa regions.  

Excellencies

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Arts Education may focus on students creating art, on learning to criticize or appreciate it or some combination of the two.  An alternative approach to art education involves an emphasis on imagination, both in interpreting and creating art.  Alternative approaches, such as visual culture and issue-based approaches in which students explore societal and personal issues through art, also inform arts education today.  Arts Education assists children and young people in developing their critical thinking, creativity, life skills, self-awareness and promotion and appreciation of cultural diversity.  

Efforts in our continent to place Arts Education in our schools and universities curricula are still very limited; hence initiatives such as this one should be emulated so that our cultural and creative industries are developed and provide the much needed revenue to the economies of the continent.   It is important to promote culture and education by placing emphasis on creativity and innovative ideas.  

Initiatives at the global level for the promotion and development of Arts Education policies and programmes include: the UNESCO World Conferences on Arts Education which paved the way for the promotion of Arts Education and development of policies instruments in the sector.  

Excellencies,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,  

It was through recognition of the important role that cultural and creative industries can play in the development of the continent that the African Union Assembly adopted in 2008 the AU Plan of Action on Cultural and Creative Industries aimed at promoting the safeguarding, organization, production, marketing, distribution, exhibition and preservation of African cultural and creative industries as well as the teaching of the arts.     

This important conference is taking place at a time when the African Union Commission is finalizing the African Union Agenda 2063. Agenda 2063 is a Strategic Framework that provides policy space for Member States to pursue individual and collective actions to attain the AU Vision of a peaceful and prosperous Africa driven by its own citizens and being a strong force in the global arena.   Aspiration 5 and 6 of the popular version of Agenda 2063 read as follows: (5) An Africa with a strong identity, common heritage, values and ethics; (6) An Africa where development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of women and youth;

We are certain that through the teaching of the arts and culture, Africa’s children and youthful populations will recognise and develop a stronger African identity, learn to promote and preserve our rich heritage and shared values as well as drive the development of the continent.   

Let’s thus develop implementable policies for the promotion of Arts Education and embark on a campaign to advocate for the inclusion of arts education early enough in our school curricula. 

 Allow me to conclude by reading a quotation on Arts Education by Mae  Jemison, a renowned Physician and Astronaut: 

The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity”.

Mae Carol Jemison (Physician and Astronaut)

Thank you very much!