For immediate release 20 November 2012
Artists, activists and cultural workers urged to help Mali’s renowned Festival au Desert & support the ‘Caravan of Artists for Peace & National Unity’
Africa’s artists, activists, cultural workers and ordinary citizens are being urged to step in to assist Mali’s renowned Festival au Desert, which has been forced into exile by separatist movements and armed extremists.
The opportunity to play a role – big or small – in ensuring the continuation of the now iconic 12-year-old festival comes when Festival au Desert director Manny Ansar visits Johannesburg from November 24th to November .27th 2012
Ansar is coming to South Africa at the invitation of Al Jazeera. The passionately committed festival director will take part in a talk show aimed at raising awareness around the current tragedies taking place in Mali – with a specific focus on the Festival au Desert and the Mali music that is intrinsically linked to it.
Ansar will be travelling with Tuareg musician Ahmed Ag Keady who is the leader of the band Amanar – one of the undisputed stars of the 2010 Festival au Desert.
As part of a bilateral agreement with the Festival au Desert that was signed in 2009, Johannesburg-based JT Comms African Media Resource Centre of Excellence is taking the lead in rallying support and assistance for the Festival in Southern Africa.
“The Festival au Desert stands for everything that we believe passionately in,” says Vanessa Perumal of JT Comms African Media Resource Centre of Excellence. “The festival believes wholeheartedly in providing a space where Africa’s history and deep-rooted culture can find expression – in a way that ensures it resonance with a contemporary audience. That is very much in line with the underlying vision of our resource centre and so there was no hesitation when Manny approached us for help.”
The JT Comms African Media Resource Centre of Excellence is providing a space for South African-based artists, activists, cultural workers and ordinary citizens to meet with Ansar from November 22nd – to find ways of working together to ensure the continuation of the Festival au Desert. The aim is to establish a collective under the banner Friends of the Festival au Desert.
Described by the Mail & Guardian’s Lloyd Geyde, as “a musical smorgasbord for the world-music fan and one that will be etched into your brain for the rest of your life”, the Tuareg festival has traditionally been held at a site in the Saharan Desert named Essakane, roughly four hours north of Timbuktu.
However separatist movements and armed Islamist groups have over recent years, entrenched themselves in the region. Recently the festival’s site and infrastructure in Timbuktu were destroyed and musicians are being targeted in Northern Mali with some news reports emerging of musicians being chased out of town and their instruments destroyed. Some fundamentalist militia has even banned music in certain towns and villages. Add to this the growing humanitarian crisis caused by refugees fleeing Northern Mali and the region is clearly in a state of turmoil.
“It started with the sacking of the site of the Festival in the Desert at Timbuktu,” says Ansar of the current situation. “More serious was the destruction of the monuments and mausoleums of the city of Timbuktu, the great symbols of our culture and our beliefs.” Ansar points out that this destruction and violence have crushed the promotion of culture and tourism in the region.
Against this background, the Festival au Desert was initially forced to relocate to Timbuktu but is now set to take place in Burkina Faso.
During his visit to South Africa, Ansar will be discussing the interventions in Mali and humanitarian support to preserve music and culture in Mali with a focus on the “Peace Caravan”, which is the form the 2013 edition of the festival, is taking.
The “Festival in Exile” as it will be known in 2013, will take the form of a “Caravan of artists for Peace and National Unity in Mali”, which will travel through Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, Niger and then meet in Burkina Faso, where the official festival will take place. The caravan will begin in Bamako on February 7th 2013 and will head to the town of Kobeni in Mauritania. There the first “Concert of Peace” will take place on the 8th and 9th of February. Sister festivals, The Festival on the Niger in Segou and the Festival of Mali in Bamako will host solidarity evenings in their programs for the “Festival in Exile” on the 14th and 16th of February respectively.
A second caravan will also leave from Tamanrasset in Algeria and travel to Niamey in Niger, before making its way to Oursi in Burkina Faso, where the Festival au Desert will be held between the 20th and 22nd of February 2013 The caravan will return to Mali to complete its journey at the Festival International of Selingue from 1st to 3rd of March, 2013.
“We believe there is an opportunity for South Africa’s artists and cultural workers to heed the calls for solidarity and to support efforts around the “Peace Caravan” initiative,” states Perumal.
Individuals, organisations and companies wishing to become part of the Friends of the Festival au Desert initiative should contact JT Communication Solutions.
If you would like to meet with the Festival director or offer assistance please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (011) 788 7632/1
Manny Ansar – Executive Director, Festival au Desert – email@example.com
By JT Communication Solutions African Media Resource Centre of Excellence- www.jtcomms.co.za