Arterial Network Ethiopia launched
Ethiopian artists converged at Jazz Amba Lounge in Taitu Hotel on the 12th May 2012 to launch the Ethiopia Chapter of Arterial Network. Arterial Network is an African civil society network active in the continent’s creative sector to develop and promote the arts and culture (music, dance, theatre, literature, heritage, film, visual arts, craft, etc.) in their own rights, as well as in a manner that contributes to democracy, human rights and development.
Around 150 participants from a cross-section of the arts came together at Jazz Amba to form the network’s Ethiopia Chapter, making it the 38th to be launched on the continent. Coordinated by an organizing committee of volunteer-members comprising of the Interim Country Representative, Munit Mesfin and Daniel Tamrat, Mikias Hailu, Mohammed Kassa and Nebiyou Tekalign, the formalized country chapter came into existence after conducting a number meetings to introduce the idea to key members of the arts and culture community.
Speaking on the occasion, Munit said that the main aims of Arterial Network are enhancing networking and research, building capacity in the sector in management, marketing and leadership, and creating markets and linkages within Ethiopia and across the region and promoting and lobbying for Ethiopian arts and culture to grow nationally and internationally through structural support. “The primary objectives and purposes of this Network are to promote the performing arts and African cultural heritage and practices through training and capacity building for performing artist. It strives to improve the working and living conditions, and defends the rights of artists and creative practitioners on the continent. It also works to mobilize resources for creating institutions like the Ethiopian Art Endowment Funds. We are very delighted to be part of the formation of Arterial Network in Ethiopia.”
The added advantage of being a member was the readily available information to enhance arts and culture in Ethiopia and the continent by, first, gathering information about the opportunities available in the continent and beyond the continent (festivals, competitions, workshops etc.) for Ethiopian artist and then, making this information available the practitioners so that they can engage and take advantage of them for their personal growth and the growth of the Ethiopian arts and culture sector and creative industry, Munit explained.
Munit said that the Ethiopian chapter would be independent and set its own agenda as per its own needs. The constitution is being translated into Amharic and in the next 3 or 6 months, steering committee that would oversee the activities of the chapter will be elected. Monthly discussion forums will also be initiated in the coming three months in order to address the challenges that the arts and culture community faces.
The launch included keynote addresses by Korkor Amarteifio, Chairperson of Arterial Network, who stressed the need for unity and getting organized as Africans in the arts. Korkor, who started her career in the seventies in Montreal, shared her own personal experiences on how they came to create a platform for artists from Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. ‘In Canada, they had a community called majority culture and the minority culture. The minority culture is made up of people of immigrant descent, the Africans, the Caribbean people, the Latinos. We realized that when we go to the Canada Council looking for funding, we were not all treated equally. We realized we were not organized. So we decided to form an alliance and we said ‘let us see what our targets would be’. So after we organized ourselves, we went to the Canada Council, and said we want to discuss this dilemma with you. Our arts are just as important as that of the majority culture. How come we are having such a hard time raising funds and organizing services in our communities? Finally, by being organized, we were able to put people from our cultures on the board of directors and as juries. This is important when so that when we send an application to the Council, the individuals in the jury would understand the importance of our community’s art forms and contributions and each application is judged on its own merit without bias to only the majority culture,” she recalled.
When Korkor returned Ghana, she teamed up with a couple of like-minded persons and came to form an African arts and culture network on the continent. In March 2007, more than 50 delegates from 14 African countries met on Gorée Island, Senegal to discuss the theme Revitalizing Africa’s Cultural Assets. Research indicated that Africa contributes less than 1 per cent to world trade in creative goods and services. Delegates resolved to unite across national borders to address their common challenges. A Task Team was elected to represent the five African regions and a Secretariat was appointed to coordinate the activities of the network. This was how Arterial Network was started.
“Since the network’s formation five years ago, we have done a lot. We decided to have a chapter in every country. We need to have a network of festivals and major events. Because, when you do your arts, you need to showcase it to somebody. You can’t sit at home and do your singing. You have to sing outside, you have to go to festivals. So we need to create distribution channels” she said. The African Festival Network (AFRIFESTNET) was launched in Accra, Ghana in April, 2012.