This year has been designated as the “African Union’s Year of Art, Culture and Heritage” to show the importance that cultural and creatives industries play in achieving “regional integration, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development.”
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to exact a heavy human and economic toll across the continent, but this move by the African Union highlights the role of “cultural workers” in building strength, resilience, inclusion and cohesion in various sectors.
The Year of Art has five major concepts, including heritage, culture, languages and oral traditions. Under the heritage theme, a major anticipation this year is the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in mid-2021. Costing over $1 billion, it will feature more than 100,000 artefacts from the current Egyptian Museum as well as items that have been in storage for years.
The Great Museum of Africa — another flagship project of the AU — is expected to open in 2023 and will be hosted by Algeria as a permanent memorial of the slave trade.
Visual and performing arts are frequently used to channel health and wellness messages, another pillar in the AU’s year of the arts. HIV/Aids and, more recently, Covid-19 communication has often been articulated through the arts. Cultural researchers suggest broadening the scope to cover other commonly occurring diseases and issues of wellbeing that affect the continent.
According to an AU concept note, Kenya is expected to host a temporary secretariat of the African Audio-visual and Cinema Commission, and Tanzania has been tasked with the promotion of Kiswahili as a language of wider communication and a working language of the AU.