African Tertiary Arts Education Networking Event – 30th November to 2nd December 2015

Last week, AFAI together with the Goethe-Institut South Africa, welcomed delegates from across the continent to the first African Tertiary Arts Education (ATAE) Networking Event. Hosted at Hiddingh Campus, University of Cape Town, the conference aimed to open up and discuss challenges currently facing arts education in Africa.

Ten countries were represented by high-profile African leaders of formal tertiary and non-formal institutions engaged in arts education in an exclusive action-oriented networking event. To ensure the networking event remained focused, representative and interactive, participation was limited to active, key decision makers and professionals in the arts education space to network, exchange and identify key areas of concern and collaboration.

Taking place over two days, the meeting also aimed to build on work already conducted in this area, in particular feedback sessions on the “Another Road Map for Arts Education” Africa Cluster, NEPAD Arts Education Conference recommendations and sharing new research on informal arts education in Africa.

On Monday 30th November, we received Professor Mzobanzi Mboya, Head of the Education and Training Desk at NEPAD, who welcomed delegates with an introduction of the challenges currently existing at a governmental and political level with regards to arts development and education. Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, who is the Director of Research at the Nagenda International Academy of Art and Design in Uganda as well as a current research fellow at the University of the Arts, Zurich, then presented a session ‘in conversation’ with Molema Moiloa, head of VANSA, about the Goethe Institut research document Creating Spaces: Non-formal Arts Education and Vocational training for artists in Africa. The conversation was centred on questions that the research presents, including how creative practices and processes are constituted in Africa, what are the structures across the continent that maintain, sustain and develop the arts, and how western funding bodies dictate the creative practice. The study also aims to identify and study specific and innovative approaches, which were looked at in depth.

The afternoon was focussed on a theme that has come up throughout the year at several South African tertiary institutions, motivated by the #RhodesMustFall movement: de-colonizing the university. Professor Harry Garuba (University of Cape Town) introduced Dr Ruth Simbao (Rhodes University) in a keynote entitled Learning Sideways: Struggles of ‘Africanisation’ in the Eurocentric Discipline of Art History that detailed her own efforts to de-colonize the learning structures inherent in tertiary institution. Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa presented hey keynote on Another Roadmap Africa.

The remainder of the conference was largely structured as plenaries and group discussions, which aimed to take a pro-active and problem-solving approach to the various challenges presented earlier. What was needed, how to approach these challenges, how to go forward was all discussed in the context of the preceding presentations in small focus groups, which then made proposals and presented their suggestions to the group as a whole. We are proud to announce that our delegates left having formed a steering committee in the hopes of working towards creating a network of institutions and leaders to forward the goals discussed. This steering committee has proposed the name ‘African Arts Educators Network, and comprises of the following members:

· Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa (Uganda) Director of Research at the Nagenda International Academy of Art & Design in Namulanda, Uganda, Research Associate at the Institute for Arts Education, Zurich University of the Arts, Research Fellow at the Academy of Art & Design in Bergen, Norway. Convener of the Another Roadmap for Arts Education network’s Africa Cluster

· Nkululeko Sibanda (Zimbabwe) Doctoral Fellow, Universities of Zimbabwe and Kwazulu Natal

· Yvette Hardie (South Africa) National Director of Assitej

· Maude Dikobe (Botswana) Senior Lecturer at the University of Botswana

· Dominic Lunenge (Namibia) Head of the Department of African Performing Arts, College of the Arts

For a period of three months (until March 2016), AFAI’s Research Manager Sophia Olivia Sanan (South Africa) will take primary responsibility for communicating with the group and getting the network going. The current priorities are:

a) the sharing of information/ resources and the facilitation of a platform to do so

b) ensuring that everyone is in touch with each-other

c) sharing databases

d) formulating an action plan for the network.

Feedback from the event has been overwhelmingly positive, and we look forward to encouraging the growth of this new network for years to come. Resources from the event (including presentations) are currently being collected and will shortly be available under our ‘Resources’ section on our website.

For the final day of the event, our delegates were invited to attend the first morning of the ELIA Leadership Symposium, hosted in association with AFAI.

Many thanks to the Goethe Institut for making this event possible.