Monday, 30 January 2012

Artists and Politics


One of the suggestions that came out of the African creative economy conference’s round table on the African Union and its Plan of Action on cultural industries was that artists should also join politics and get appointed to senior government positions so that they protect the interest of the artist and implement policies that promote the development of the creative industries. This is because most of the Ministers and government officials appointed by governments to lead arts and culture ministries are usually politicians who know very little, if any, about the cultural industries, hence they end up doing nothing for the industry.

For sometime now, I have been following the hot topic of Youssou N’Dour, a prominent musician from Senegal’s political ambitions. He has set out to challenge President Abdoulaye Wade in the forthcoming presidential elections. If N’Dour wins the elections could this be a breakthrough for the Senegalese cultural industries? The article below explores the issue of N’Dour’s ambitions at length.

Youssou N'dour - President?
By Bram Posthumus,

"Who will Youssou sing for?" That was the question a national daily asked on its front page on January 2. On the same day, he gave the answer: Youssou N'Dour will be singing for himself.

The contrast could not have been greater. On New Year's Eve, Senegal's state television showed the country's geriatric president Abdoulaye Wade struggling through a national address, hollow-eyed, his voice faltering. Two days later, a fresh and sprightly Youssou N'Dour used his own television station TFM to announce his candidacy for the presidential elections, to be held at the end of February.

An extraordinary life

The announcement did not come entirely as a surprise. Politics is the next stage in the extraordinary life of a man who was born in 1959 in Medina, a poor suburb on the doorstep of the city's business and administration centre.

His voice was the gift that sent him to the stage at a very young age. In the 1970s this boy soprano belted out Latin-tinged repertoire, just like the Orchestre Baobab, the leading band in those days. But Youssou N'Dour was about to wipe out that music and replace it with a new, fast and furious dance style.

With his band Le Super Étoile de Dakar he first conquered his own country - and then the world. And at an early stage, he put his music to use for good causes. He took part in the Human Rights Now mega concerts Amnesty International organised in 1988 (I saw him perform that year in Harare, Zimbabwe, next door to the apartheid regime). Twenty years later, he was a guest star at the African alternative to Live Aid, organised by his good friend Peter Gabriel. But his mainstay remained mbalax, Senegal's frenetic national pulse.

Citizen's movement

A night club, a studio - nothing was stopping Youssou N'Dour. He founded Future Media and now owns a radio station, Senegal's best selling newspaper L'OBS (a racy mix of sleaze, journalism and sport) and TFM. And he was eyeing the political kingdom. He was in good books with Abdoulaye Wade for quite a while - but that was before he had an almighty row with the government over the endless delays for his television station.

And now N'Dour is pulling the strands of his extra-musical activities together, using his television station and a brand new citizen's movement he launched at the end of last year as platforms for his presidential bid.


He has a few advantages. First, he is self-made. Second, he is a bona fide patriot. This is what he said announcing his candidacy: 'I do not have two passports and have no possessions outside Senegal. Everything I have gained I have invested here.' A none-too-subtle dig at those who feign national loyalty while siphoning off their wealth to offshore bank accounts. Third, he is no professional politician; he does not belong to that class of people who transit from one political party to another for personal gain.


The big question for N'Dour is: will his fan-base translate into "votes"? The first crop of reactions on the popular website Seneweb suggests: not necessarily. At 52, he himself is gradually replaced by another generation of musicians who wield political influence. The opposition against president Wade's highly controversial bid for a third term in office is led by rap artists from areas even poorer than Medina. They are the basis of the new youth movements M23 and Y'en a marre (We're fed up). Whenever they hold a rally, Youssou N'Dour is careful to show up.

Your comments…..

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Gambia: Globalization and Culture

 Article by  Sanna Jawara17 January 2012

Ramifications of globalization in all aspects of human life across the world are visible, especially on our rich traditional and cultural norms and values. Our lives and ways of living are no longer what they used to be centuries ago, when people hardly travel beyond their immediate environment or settlements, contrary to the current trend as exhibited in mass migration both internal and external.

Globalization has made the world became a thin global village. We don't have to go that far to see the economic theories relating to globalization and its impacts on our lives either individually or collectively. Our lives have now been inundated with introduction of different products and services; ranging from computers, sophisticated laptops, micro phones, mobile phones, wireless internet connections and so on, all of which help in the rapid transformation of our lives.

However, we must acknowledge that everything on this planet has its own merits and demerits and globalization is not an exception to this reality. In as much as we speak about its importance, we must also not lose sight of its side effects, especially where our traditional and cultural norms and values are concerned.

However, the motivation to come up with this issue stems from a day-long debate on the subject by the University of The Gambia and De Montfort University of UK, held last Friday in the main hall of the UTG at the Brikama Campus. At the said debate, the concept of globalization was delved into by many eminent scholars and academics who all acknowledged the importance and side effects of the subject.

Prominent developments such as the dvent of science and technology in the 21st century, the introduction of some major economic policies by the world's most powerful financial institutions; such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB); as well as the 9/11th 2001 terror attack on the US, the reactions of the US to the said inhumane action among other global issues greatly affected international relations and the ordinary business of life.

We must appreciate and acknowledge the speed and scope that globalization has gone ºbeyond the imagination of an ordinary person, because it cuts across all sectors of life including our cultural norms and values. Its impact is felt and affects virtually everything we do and say in this world. What life used to be in our traditional settings has now been greatly shaped and directed by aculturation through the influences of globalization.

Rapid industrialization accompanied by rapid migrations at local, national, sub-regional, regional and global levels are evidences of globalization, where in people could travel thousands of miles within minutes and hours contrary to when people used to travel on either foot or other primitive tools to far distance places.

The world of tourism stands out as a typical example about the effects of globalization to which our little Gambia is not an exception. The Gambia like other African countries has rich traditional cultural values, but with the world coming together as one big village, with such a speed and scope, things are no longer what they used to be as far as promotion, protection and preservation of our cherished cultures are concerned.

We have seen and felt the effects of tourism on our education, skills, labour force, brain drains among others. The unprecedented attitudinal change in our youths towards national development, which contrasted the way and manner an ideal Gambian or African child is brought up and prepared to take his or her rightful place in societal development and welfare of the family, community and nation at large. The short skirts, high shoes and other unusual forms of dresses exposing our bodies to the hazards of our immediate environment among others attest to this fact.

The way forward

To balance the impacts of globalization, as highlighted at the recent UTG De Monfort lecture Africa must adapt to the changing circumstances brought about by globalization. It was further argued that the world is no longer what it used to be when it comes to advancement in science and technology and as such the continent must either join the trend of globalization or be left behind for the worst consequences.

The only way out as others will call it, is 'thinking out of the box'; for Africa to build on its development sectors to cope with the spirit of globalization. We must build on our educational systems, health, agriculture, infrastructure among others. The youths must be ready and willing to embrace change and make effective and efficient use of latest scientific equipment at their disposal, while at the same time striving to promote our culture at all times. We cannot ignore the importance of science and technology brought to our door steps by globalization, all what is expected of us is the total change of attitude accompanied with a deep sense of self awareness.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Cultural cooperation: Is it beneficial to Uganda?

By Nsaba Buturo

In October last year, in one of the leading newspapers, Ambassador Thorbjorn Gaustadsaether wrote an article entitled: ‘UMOJA using culture as a development tool’. I was interested in the article for two main reasons: The first is that the writer is his country’s ambassador to Uganda. The second was his view that culture can be used as a ‘development’ tool.

Concerning the first reason, something rarely seen in most other nations is happening in Uganda. The world over, diplomats who are accredited to represent their countries are guided by international diplomatic practices. One of those practices is that a diplomat should never engage openly in governance matters of their host nations.

This means that they are not expected to issue press statements or write their views in the local press on policy (economic, social and political) matters of the host nation. Such matters are the preserve of national governments.

When foreign diplomats happen to have concerns, they privately and not publicly discuss them with host governments through the Foreign Affairs ministry.

What is happening in Uganda is not normal practice! Some foreign diplomats are in the habit of violating international diplomatic practices by regularly making statements on policy issues that should be the preserve of the government of Uganda.

Ugandans who have seen this happen with increasing frequency will be excused to think that some of these foreign diplomats are now Ugandan officials! If our government does not chide them for conducting themselves undiplomatically, Ugandans will become more confused!

The second reason for my interest in the article was the ambassador’s opinion that culture can be a development tool. Unfortunately, he was not specific about how culture can be such a tool. The world over, nations have different cultures or value standards.

For example, in Ugandan societies, polygamy is an accepted practice. In European societies, it is frowned upon. In some nations, sodomy and bestiality, for example, are ‘human rights’ issues whereas in Uganda, they are not!

Mr Ambassador, when nations have such divergent value standards, how does cultural cooperation work? Any such cooperation should never be used by one society as a smokescreen for introduction of practices which others regard as inimical to their interests.

The ambassador also opined in the article that the overriding objective of cultural cooperation is to strengthen both the cultural sector and civil society in the South so that the latter become change agents in favour of good governance.

This objective is loaded with a condescending attitude! In this sense, what the ambassador appears to call cultural cooperation is not a two-way exchange! By asserting that the cultural sector in the South, which includes Uganda, is weak and needs strengthening, the ambassador is falling into the familiar syndrome of ‘we know what they want better than they do themselves’! If this is what the ambassador calls cultural cooperation, then it is a sanitised version of cultural imperialism!

In order to impose their cultural order on weaker countries, stronger nations are now using different tactics. For example, Ugandan rural societies are being introduced to practices that they would gladly as well as bravely resist were it not for the fact that such introduction is often accompanied with promises of much needed services such as schools and water.

In other cases, non-governmental organisations, writers, television personalities, academicians, musicians, media and the Internet literature are being used to spread foreign cultural values.

No, what Uganda really needs is not cultural cooperation that paves way for entry of values that undermine ours. She needs respect! She also needs demonstrable willingness by wealthy nations to give her space to industrialise her economy for self-sufficiency.

The type of development cooperation which Uganda needs is one that also respects both her sovereignty and national values. To our government, a nation is strong when its culture and values are not adulterated or imposed from elsewhere.