Biennale of Luanda offers Africa a chance to reboot in a promising post-colonial era

Office buildings are seen under construction in the capital of Luanda, August 30, 2012. SABC News

From 5th – 8th October, the much-anticipated “Biennale of Luanda” will be held in Angola. Described as the “Pan-African Forum for the Culture of Peace”, the Biennale of Luanda is a joint initiative of the African Union (AU), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the government of Angola.

The gathering that sits every two years seeks to map out a consensus through which to implement a “Plan of Action for a Culture of Peace in Africa – Make Peace Happen”, which was adopted in March 2013 in the Angolan capital Luanda during the Pan-African Forum at the time held under the theme: “Sources and Resources for a Culture of Peace.”

The first edition of the Biennale was held in Luanda in September 2019. This week’s edition is therefore the second stock in line. The latest Biennale will be held under the theme: “Strengthening the Pan-African Movement for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence: Towards a Global Partnership.”

I am absolutely in support of this year’s theme for the following reasons: First and foremost, it depicts an Africa that seeks unity and diplomatic education through learning and adoption of an acceptable set of behavioural principles and secondly, it displays an appreciation for globalization and its effects on sovereign states, regional bodies and indeed international institutions.

An Africa that seeks to reclaim her place among nations of the universal community ought to first show the world that she takes herself seriously. And this is a loaded statement. It means an Africa that abides by universal declarations such as human rights, peace and stability. In that way, Africa will be able to focus most of her attention on a collective war on hunger and want, starvation and indeed poverty. But above all, the unfortunate impoverishment of the African child through the Big Man syndrome of leaders who inherently overstay their welcome in positions of power is the malady that hopefully, the Biennale of Luanda will also tackle head-on in one of its planned four main sessions, or forums as they refer to.

In a widely-circulated media statement, the aim of this year’s Biennale of Luanda for the Culture of Peace in Africa is “to work towards a daily and sustainable individual and collective appropriation and implementation, on the continent, of the concept of a culture of peace”. According to the organisers the culture of peace consists of “values, attitudes and behaviours that reflect and promote conviviality and sharing based on the principles of freedom, justice and democracy.”

A Biennale of Luanda’s concept document further states that: “All human rights tolerance and solidarity, which reject violence and are inclined to prevent conflicts by addressing their root causes and solve problems through dialogue and negotiation, and which guarantee to all people the full enjoyment of all rights and the means to participate fully in the development process of their society.”

Too often the younger generations across Africa complain about the deliberate culture of “youth exclusion” from the mainstream of economic participation and the gate-keeping at the entrance of political activities.
The outlined plans of the Biennale of Luanda are therefore encouraging in that they seem to consciously attempt to reposition the continent as a voice of reason among the nations of the world. However, I’d like to argue that charity beginning at home means that the AU ought to get its house in order first. The fragmentation of Africa along regional blocs and language should be among the first acknowledged hindrances towards progress and prosperity that must be dealt with.

As part of the globalized world, Africa has a series of case studies against which to benchmark plans and programmes that are aimed at cutting ties with the backward past and mapping out a new tomorrow. For example, the AU should lead the way in the establishment of a common currency for the continent that will be similar to the Euro, which is used across the entire European Union bloc.

This was one of the major dreams of the assassinated Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who had wanted to reconfigure the continent into the United States of Africa. The move would help to drastically shoot up economic integration and increased activity by the majority of African citizens from Cape to Cairo without the impediments that emanate mostly from the legacy of Colonialism and apartheid.

African peoples have way too much in common to still be so disenfranchised in 2021. Culture, language and tradition are a theme that cuts across a common thread that binds us together in a positive way.

The Biennale of Luanda catches the eye for the opportunity that it presents for the brighter future of the African child. The noble endeavour is to bring to an end the terrible habit of coups, strife, stealth, suppression of democratization processes, impoverishment and homelessness, poverty and starvation – the list is long!

This Biennale should never be another meeting where Africans gather to pay lip service to their glorious dreams and wonderful thoughts. Instead, it should continue to be a blueprint that marks our collective departure from a heinous past caused by Western colonisers and to a large extent by foolish Africans themselves.

Africa is a land rich in ubiquitous natural minerals. No African child should be going to bed on an empty stomach and no African man or woman should be homeless in the land of plenty.

Together, we can stop the capital flight from Africa that is orchestrated by unscrupulous zealots whose loot end up in Europe and other Western capitals. As Mandela once said, it is in our hands.

The AU’s theme of the year 2021 is: “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa we Want.” The AU believes that the theme offers a golden opportunity for Africa to renew this commitment and enhance the promotion of the concept of a “Culture of Peace” across the continent through the Biennale of Luanda.

In my book, peace breeds stable societies. Stability leads to economic emancipation and shared prosperity.
Inevitably, as participants at the Biennale of Luanda should discover, the above could give rise to African solidarity across the Global South.

There is no reason whatsoever that in this day and era, to fly from Southern Africa to almost the entire Francophone Africa one has to first fly via Paris in France in order to reach the intended destination within the continent. The former Colonial masters such as France still wield enormous influence and impact in many parts of Africa. This cannot be right in the 21st century and this is not the framework of the “Africa We Want”.

Former Colonial masters cannot be allowed to hold so much sway. Hopefully, the men and women who work in the AU Head Quarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will take a message to the Biennale of Luanda that the era of official colonialism is long gone and that colonialism should not hold Africa’s development back by hook or by crook.

This year’s Biennale of Luanda will host four thematic forums that will hopefully bring together innovative ideas and best practices for Mother Africa.

The forums, or sessions, are: (1) The contribution of arts, culture and heritage to peace, (2) Engaging young people as actors of social transformations for conflict prevention and sustainable development, (3) Africa in the face of conflicts, crises and inequalities and (4) Harnessing the potential of oceans for sustainable development and peace.

Indeed, with the abundance of water through the oceans and the beloved river Nile, among other sources, ocean economies need to serve as a fundamental source of a thriving continent that has rid itself of the remnants of colonialism and everything that has held us back as a people. The time is now, and now is the time.

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