The African Union (AU) says it is placing cultural values at the center of its upcoming Assembly of Heads of State and Government, in an announcement of a theme that will carry throughout the year – a year of both challenge linked to the pandemic and its economic fallout, but also opportunity as the Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) begins uniting countries on the continent.
The AU said the “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want” theme celebrates the foundation of its unity through the diversity of cultural expression in communities all over Africa, citing AU chief Moussa Faki Mahamat’s observation that “culture is the main marker of identity and through it we know who we really are.”
Moral values are at the heart of African heritage and serve as a guide to the future, the AU explained.
“African culture is expressed in its arts and crafts, folklore and religion, clothing, cuisine, music and languages,” the AU announcement said. “Expressions of culture are abundant within Africa, with large amounts of cultural diversity being found not only across different countries but also within single countries.”
One aspect of the theme aligns with the preservation of African property, including art and artefacts. Recent years have seen an increase in long-delayed African demands to return valuable pieces taken to Europe during the colonial era, with France and other countries agreeing to return items to places like Egypt or Benin.
The full AU meeting will be held on February 6 and 7, with the AU Executive Council set to begin its meetings next Wednesday.
Image: Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac file