News from the community: African Festival Network

The African Festival Network aims to be a platform for exchange between festival practitioners from the African continent and has been re-vitalized in 2023 by Joshua Alabi (Nigeria). 

Joshua is Creative Director/CEO of Kininso Koncepts and Kininso Creative Limited. He attended the online session Hotspot Nigeria in 2020 as a speaker and participated in the Atelier for Young Festival Managers Kampala in 2022. 

As a result of Joshuas attendance at the European Festivals Association’s 2023 Arts Festivals Summit in Girona, he implemented his idea of revitalizing the African Festival Network, following previous efforts by different stakeholders in 2012 to establish this network with the support of the European Festival Association and the Arterial Network. The Festival Academy collaborated closely with Joshua, facilitating connections with other Alumni and festivals from the continent. 

The emerging and revitalized African Festival Network (AFN) aims to connect festival makers from all parts of Africa with a focus to influence policies that establish stronger collaboration and improve the wellbeing of communities through festivals by championing ease of mobility and access to funding. It serves as a platform for all festivals to share their experiences for knowledge advancement and collaboration to enhance Africa's creative economy and aims to offer solutions for cultural policy, dialogue, quality and structural institutional support. The Festival Academy continues to support the AFN by facilitating connections among individuals in the region and acting as an amplifier for the mission and vision of the network.

The first online meeting took place on June 6, 2023, with participants including Brett Pyper from the University of Wit Johannesburg, Ismail Mahomed, Director of the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) at UKZN, Thobile Maphanga of JOMBA! Festival at the CCA in South Africa, Jerry Adesewo from the Arojah Royal Theatre Nigeria, Suha Belal, Artistic Director of the Hakawy International Festival Egypt, Joshua Alabi from Kininso Koncepts Nigeria, and the team of The Festival Academy.

Following this first reunion, monthly online meetings have taken place with more festivals from the continent joining the meetings, to identify common interests, potential members of the network, and to draft proposals, discuss expectations and needs, outline everyone’s potential contributions to the network, and formulate a mission statement. The group also collectively analyzed the previous efforts by different stakeholders in 2012 to establish this network with the support of the European Festival Association and the Arterial Network.

First in-person meeting at Artfluence Human Rights Festival in Durban (South Africa):

A significant outcome 2023 was the decision of organizing a first in-person African Festival Network meeting in Durban during the Artfluence Human Rights Festival 2024, hosted by the Center for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa). The Festival Academy facilitated the development and supported the design of the gathering with its expertise.

The 2-day gathering during the Artfluence Human Rights Festival took place from 3 -8 May and brought together experts and alumni who work in the festival industry across Africa and beyond. Current members of the core group are professionals from Nigeria, South Africa, Rwanda, and Egypt. Beyond that, the meeting during the Artfluence Human Rights Festival welcomed festival professionals from Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mali and South Africa, members of the South African Human Rights Commission, and several other industry stakeholders.

The meeting in Durban was the next step of the initiative and had the aim to reestablish connections, brainstorm key objectives for the network and detail fundamental roles that the network wants to play, with a focus on how resources can be pulled together to achieve the goals. The gathering was designed as an exploratory, simple and concrete process to enable the group to achieve good results.