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Curtain comes down on culture conference

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BY TENDAI SAUTA/WINSTONE ANTONIO
THE curtain finally came down yesterday at the three-day International Conference of African Cultures (ICAC) 2021 held at Theatre in the Park and National Gallery of Zimbabwe (NGZ) in Harare.

A panel of local and international speakers drawn from across Africa took turns to make presentations at the third edition of the conference, which ran concurrently with an exhibition on some objects and artefacts that need repatriation.

While the conference was held under the theme Africa Speaks: Confronting Restitution and Repatriation of Artefacts, Human Remains, Objects and Archives from African Countries, the exhibitions ran under the theme Looking Back and Looking Towards the Future: Celebrating Africa in Africa.

The intangible phenomenon of tangible cultures was under spotlight at the conference, that also curated African voices on the United Nations Cultural Declarations in line with Vision 2030, according to national sovereignties and global laws.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who officially opened the conference on Wednesday, said the event presented an opportunity for Africans to reflect on their culture while pushing ahead the vision of the founding fathers of freedom.

“Deliberations and resolutions made during the ICAC should subsequently be viewed as a beginning for fundamental steps in building unity and the truly liberated Africa we would want,” he said.

“The affected museums and institutions in the West are called upon to support Africa in the ongoing repatriation and restitution efforts and to work with them. The use of pseudo-measures and terms such as digital repatriation and permanent loan continues to violate the philosophy and development standards of the sphere to delay the conclusion of this sad chapter in our history.”

Mnangagwa also challenged academics and archaeologists to champion the liberation war of the mindset which he said would be affectionately called Chimurenga Chepfungwa.

“I urge universities, heritage experts and professional institutions across the continent to resolutely pursue Chimurenga Chepfungwa/Liberation of the Spirit, shaped by our strong African cultural belief systems and identity,” he said.

Mnangagwa said the first, second and third conferences revealed that Africa did not have homogeneous culture, but has diverse cultures and hence making it imperative to preserve all the heritages for the benefit of its people.

“The International Conference on African Cultures is challenged to continue speaking without excuse about the ideals and ideologies of our founding fathers and to expand them. These must promote the restoration and preservation of our rich heritage, as well as the modernisation, industrialisation and prosperity of our great continent,” he said.

“We must, therefore, use this platform to gather the rest of Africa together with its diaspora in order to quickly resolve these remaining problems and to achieve the full enjoyment of our hard-won independence, dignity and identity.”

King of Akwamu Odeneho Kwafo Akoto III from Ghana challenged Mnangagwa to support traditional chiefs in the preservation of cultural heritages and fully empower them as custodians to speak with one voice.

The Ghanaian traditional leader also said the artefacts and objects were valuable items and could be better displayed in countries they belonged, a sentiment shared by Chiefs Council president Fortune Charumbira.

Mbare-based Duramanzwi Mbira group produced a stellar performance before a multi-racial and multi-cultural gathering which reflected the ethnic compositions of Zimbabwe and Africa at large.

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