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African culture conference gathers momentum


NATIONAL Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) executive director Raphael Chikukwa yesterday said this year’s edition of the International Conference of African Cultures (ICAC) 2021 could launch the country as a pan-African hub for critical discussions on the continent.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to officially open the conference which will be in hybrid format and run from November 23 to 25 at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare.

Speaking at a Press conference yesterday, Chikukwa said the conference, which is in its third edition, would curate African voices on the United Nations Cultural Declarations in line with Vision 2030, according to national sovereignties and global laws.

“In line with the NDS 1 [National Development Strategy 1] and the government’s mantra of re-engagement agenda, we feel it’s important to host another ICAC and not to have a one-off event. Through ICAC Zimbabwe is going to be a pan-African hub for critical discussions for the Africa we want,” he said.

Chikukwa said Africa had been deprived of its heritage financially, academically and artistically.

“It is in the gallery’s thinking that there is a need to create this platform on African soil. This debate should not remain in the West for this is to do with our heritage that includes archives, human remains and objects,” he said.

“We should not pretend as cultural practitioners that it is business as usual, the point we are here to stress is, we must confront this repatriation and restitution issue from our own perspective. The issue of our human remains, objects and archives are not a laughing matter, and we should ask ourselves why they want to keep our heritage.”

Chikukwa said he was hopeful that the conference would provide an opportunity to produce a position paper that could contribute to the African Union repatriation workshop and the aspirations of the continent.

“As National Gallery of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe at large, we think that the need to celebrate Africa in Africa is long overdue. The time is now and our voices matter when it comes to the heritage, human remains and archives,” he said.

“The idea of having your own heritage benefiting others is unfair and it must be corrected. It is our hope that having our heritage will see the need to heal the colonial scars that the colonised people have and continue to suffer from.”

Chikukwa said the conference would run concurrently with an exhibition on some objects and artefacts that needed repatriation.

Speaking at the same event, director in the Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation ministry, Biggie Samwanda, said the focus of discussion at the conference would also be in line with NDS1 and inclusivity.

“Zimbabwe is taking seriously the government’s mantra on engagement and re-engagement. As a ministry, we are also working to make sure that ICAC is a success. The conference will also address the important aspects surrounding the intangible phenomenon of tangible cultures and objects,” he said.

NGZ board member Solomon Guramatunhu said the conference was of extreme importance as it boosted cultural values and esteem.

“I think we are privileged to be alive at this point of time when we talk and share issues pertaining restitution and repatriation of artefacts, human remains and objects and archives from an African perspective,” he said.

“Colonial mindsets and oppressive synergies such as presented to the British Parliament by Lord Macaulay should be abandoned and abolished.”

Meanwhile, government has said preparations for the conference are at an advanced stage.

“As presented by the Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister, Honourable Dr Kirsty Coventry, the nation is informed that preparations for the hosting of the conference are at an advanced stage of completion,” Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa told a post-Cabinet media briefing on

The conference, which will be live-streamed on all social media platforms, will be held under the theme Africa Speaks: Confronting Restitution and Repatriation of Artefacts, Human Remains, Objects and Archives from African Countries, while the exhibitions will run under the theme Looking Back and Looking Towards the Future: Celebrating Africa in Africa.

The conference will be attended by 34 delegates from Zimbabwe and the African continent.

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