Culture is future » Territorial attractiveness and social cohesion


The cultural model in West Africa

In a globalized world Africa is looked as a forgotten continent. It is similar for African culture. Paradoxically it abounds and is inspired both by global culture and proper creation. Nevertheless this creation stay yet dominated by old Europe even if the new changes that appear open the way for its own creative industries developing.

The African originality in a globalized world remain its attract for the informal economy, despite the appearances the continent is tied with the rest of the world thanks to the informal network. Frédéric Martel show in his book named: Mainstream, enquête sur la guerre globale de la culture et des médias how West Africa is unofficially tied with the world of media and the worldwide culture, thanks to thousands of underground cables that join the population to satellite television. This intrusion in the worldwide culture can be seen on the Yaoundé market where there are thousands of pirated CD of American music or numerous DVD of blockbusters. And even the relative lack of cinemas, particularly in Francophone Africa, the last two movie theaters in Cameroon closed in 2009, is compensated by the increase of film clubs in private. Through this market we are in the African culture that is becoming globalised. This is a reduced model of the legal cultural industry. All the cultural life is organised by unofficial network, a sort of pirate creative industry that assure the supply of cultural products to the African population.

But this industry only played the role of intermediary between worldwide culture and the West African populations.

Two European cities are still the patrons of African creation

The model of own creation in West African has two exogenous capitals: London and Paris. These two cities are paradoxically the hubs for the cultural flows of West Africa. The African artist has to emigrate to one of these two cities if he wants to have a chance to become famous or acquire an international legitimacy or even be able of reaching the all continent. Indeed, 70% of African musicians live in the North by creative obligation. One of the several reasons is the better quality of the infrastructures like the studios or the labels. The second one is that the European media like RFI or the BBC are most capable of reaching the whole Africa than the African ones. Then, in term of money, only one concert in Europe is more profitable than a tour in Africa. So this is a cultural model the creation of which stays limited, above all by lacking of means, because it do not offer many international opportunities to the artists.

However Africa is in a pivotal period and some changes are appearing.

A new cultural order for African artists

They question the African cultural scene. First, there is internet which is more and more present thanks to collective use and many African artists make use of this tool to spread their creations and to reach a large public. Internet disrupts the shape of cultural exchanges and enables them to reach directly the other African countries. The second change is the emergence of Nigeria as the new hub for the cultural flows in West Africa. It has become the second cinema power in term of number of film produced in one year with 2000 films per year. Their distribution remains reserved for the home environment and their prices extremely cheap prevents piracy and make these products the mainstream of Western Africa. At least, it has occurred since few years that the African ancestral culture is reasserting. This enrichment is incarnate in the NGO named West African Museum Program. Its aim is to promote a professional approach in the museum field and enable them to beneficiate of more funds. This NGO also made an inventory in 2007 of 167 museum thought the 16 country of West Africa. That offer a new way to be exhibited for the artists.

West Africa is today in a sort of cultural turning point , on one hand it is increasingly influenced by global culture and on the other hand, it tries to find its creative independence towards its former colonial powers to develop its own culture blending modernity and tradition for it to assert itself on global cultural scene.

Galien Renault.

Photo credit : Vassil