June 1 should have opened the Africa 2020 Season. A few days ago, the launch of this flagship project supposed to renew relations between France and Africa, was officially postponed to December 2020. The ambitions are they remained intact? Interview with N’Goné Fall, the Commissioner General.
RFI : The Africa 2020 Season has been rescheduled from early December 2020 to mid-July 2021. A pan-African project whose events will take place in France. There was never any question of transforming it into digital publishing ?
N’Goné Fall: No, it was absolutely not possible. The project concerns all French territories, including overseas. And these are projects that require physical meetings. So switching all programming to digital was not possible.
At the same time, no one can predict whether, for example, there will be a second wave of coronavirus. In the new agenda, do you plan to give more space to digital projects ?
In fact, the edition has not changed. It’s just the dates that have changed. By the time containment in France began, it was two and a half months before the opening of the Season. Programming and all projects have already been stopped. So, we are not going to ask people to make new projects for a reason that would not have been justified. What is important to us at the moment is to say that we are spending time by betting that mobility will be allowed from December. People have built projects so that the French public and African actors can meet. This Africa 2020 Season is a collaborative sharing platform.
When I say that the purpose of this Season is to put the human at the center of concerns, it is to put him back physically, so that people can meet, exchange, share. So we are not going to invent new digital projects because of the current situation. However, in the programming, there are digital projects that will not change.
The Africa 2020 Season, with its 200 projects from 54 African countries, involves more than 350 operators in Africa and France. Today, we know President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to save the cultural sector in France, but what is the situation today for artists and cultural institutions in the African countries with which you work for Africa 2020 ?
All actors in the entertainment and cultural sector are at a standstill. All production and distribution projects are stopped. Like everyone around the world. These artists are housed in the same boat. On a continent-wide basis, each state takes different measures. In France, there are aid funds set up for the cultural sectors. This is absolutely not the case in Africa. So there will inevitably be a lot of economic breaks.
IAre there already announced bankruptcies among the operators with whom you work for Africa 2020?
For the moment, no, but we will take stock of the economic damage rather from the end of the year. It’s a bit early to say, including in France. There are a lot of people involved at the scale of a project that concerns an entire continent. Regarding the people with whom I have spoken with for a few months, we will say: so far, everything is fine.
In France, the crisis has made visible many social disparities and imbalances. For you, what has this health crisis brought to light in relation to artistic and cultural relations between France and African countries, between artists in France and in Europe on the one hand, and artists in Africa from l other?
I think there’s the same uncertainty everywhere about tomorrow. And the same financial problems, due to the fact that there is no more money coming in. And we are still – for many of us – at a standstill. All over the world, we are all in the same boat.
In France, but also in other countries in Europe, one thinks first of all of helping artists and cultural enterprises of one’s own country. Will this be at the expense of cultural exchange with other countries and at the expense of African artists who will no longer be invited to Europe ?
All international projects[[of the Africa 2020 Season, editor’s note]have been postponed, so there will be no real impact. After that, mobility remains prohibited today. Compared to Europe, there is talk of a reopening of the Schengen borders in September, at the earliest. So, in this context, it is not possible to do an international project. For this, all international events have been canceled. The Arles Photographic Meetings have not decided to make a digital festival only, the same for the Avignon Festival or the Cannes Festival. So, in this rescue in the culture sector, even if the amounts stated seem huge, I do not think that this will be able to save all the artists and properly compensate all the artists who are affected.
And in relation to international cooperation ?
Until the end of the year, it will be complicated, because the borders are closed. And borders remain closed in most African countries. We, in Senegal, the borders were closed before the borders in France. Morocco has done the same. Now, in terms of collaboration, we will see what it will give later. There has never been any question of France or Europe funding the culture sector in Africa. It doesn’t work like that.
The Africa 2020 Season, led by the French Institute, aims to make known in France the creativity of Africa today, and this in several fields: arts, research, economy, environment, the art of living, agriculture. It will take place in early December 2020 until mid-July 2021. The program will be announced next fall.
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