The online meeting is hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture through the National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and fully supported by the UNESCO office in Dakar.
Resiliart is a UNESCO online effort to foster dialogue among Gambian artists, arts administrators and policy makers, and also UNESCO itself to assess and chart the way forward during and after Covid-19. The Gambia is the first country in Africa to do this online discussion.
The two-day teleconference avails the NCAC the opportunity to use UNESCO Resiliart platform to continue to create hope and resilience among artists through online discussion in the safety of their homes.
Minister Bah congratulated UNESCO for taking the lead to start putting plans in place to help artists and other cultural groups on how to maneuver or survive COVID-19 and what will be need to be done to help them after the pandemic.
He described culture as an instrument that they all need when they feel sad because it can change their behaviors and attitudes in most cases. “I believe this has been a time when most people have used culture to at least feel a bit better,” he said.
According to him, they have seen great artists in the world performing to raise awareness and entertain people who have been locked in their houses for months. Indeed, he admitted that it has not been an easy time particularly for Africa and The Gambia for that matter.
However, he said The Gambia government has taken note of this and they will certainly support the cultural groups, writers, among others involved in the field of culture to sustain themselves and get back to business after Covid-19.
“We believe that this forum will also avail us the opportunity to draw lessons that may also help to guide us in that process of trying to see how we can mitigate some of the challenges that the cultural industry is going through all over the world,” he said.
Minister Bah further stated that cultural tourism matters a lot to them and they know that cultural tourism have suffered immensely thus he expressed hope that the debate will give them an opportunity to formulate policies that will advance the industry in the future.
Cordu Linguere Jabang-Senghore, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture disclosed that since the change in Government in 2017, the arts and culture sector has been on an upsurge. “All sectors of the arts-literature, fine arts, festivals, drama, film, dance, photography-have seen a big boost in terms of participation, and even investment in terms of printing shops, studios, record labels etc,” she said.
“Since 2018, the Ministry has doubled the operating budget for the NCAC to enable it hire more hands to implement its mandate as per the NCAC Act, 2003. Also, for the first time, the NCAC has benefitted from a Development Budget to take care of heritage sites and upgrade them to standard, including the UNESCO World Heritage sites under our purview. Sites associated with other UNESCO Conventions like the 2005 Convention and the 2003 Conventions such as the Kankurang Centre have been taken care of thanks to increased funding to NCAC,” PS Jabang-Senghore disclosed.
The Director of the UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar, Mr. Dimitri Sanga, revealed that this platform is the first they at UNESCO launched in the sub-region. He, therefore, affirmed that in this moment of crisis, people need culture and the Covid-19 crisis is showing that they need artists, authors as well as cultural professionals more than ever.
According to him, they carry the voice of resilience and participate in raising awareness in the fight against the pandemic. “Indeed, throughout the world, millions of people are physically separated from another, yet culture brings us together, it provide comfort, aspiration and hope in this time of uncertainty,” he said.
On Wednesday, Minister Bah; Jaliba Kuyateh, musician and King of Kora; Sheikh Tijan Secka, film maker; Rohey Camara actress, Dr Cherno Omar Barry, writer, Hassoum Ceesay, Director General, NCAC front the online discussion.
On Thursday, Ndey Fatou Jabang, dancer; Baaba Silah, writer; Oko Drammeh, music promoter; Baboucarr Cham, cultural promoter and radio personality and manager; Lamin Jarju, UNESCO NATCOM were on the platform.
Both online meetings will enable Gambian artists’ voice to be heard on the impact of the pandemic on the arts, and will clear the way for a roadmap for an intervention to support the arts and culture sector by government and UNESCO and other partners as part of Covid-19 social response.