“ Today, we are changing the paradigm in our relationship with our African partners. Pierre Buhler, president of the French Institute, has just unveiled Thursday, January 16, the flagship projects of his institution for 2020, including many programs in Africa. Interview.
RFI : According to you, the year 2020 will be " marked by the renewal of our relationship with the African continent ". In what way ?
Pierre Buhler : The major event of this new relationship with the African continent is the Africa 2020 season. It is not a "season", it is a demonstration, a presentation by artists, creators, intellectuals, the youth of the continent of their know-how in all fields: artistic, cultural, but also scientific, technological. The French public, in metropolitan France and also in the overseas territories, will be invited to discover this extraordinary vitality of the continent, told by the Africans themselves, in a pan-African approach. It is something deeply new. We never saw that. The French Institute has been organizing cross cultural seasons for thirty years. We have never been commissioned for such a considerable undertaking which requires inventing new engineering to produce this Africa 2020 season.
The French Institute is a tool for French diplomacy, it is " at the service of influence diplomacy ". The Africa 2020 season is supposed to make French people learn and understand Africa today. Does this mean that it is Africa which influences France and not the reverse ?
We are not only an agency for the projection of influence diplomacy, but we are also a partner for exchange and dialogue with other cultures. It is deeply the logic of the cultural seasons. They are instruments of dialogue and openness to other cultures and welcoming other cultures to France. Today, this old logic finds a radically new expression by its magnitude, by the pan-African dimension of this approach which is at the heart of the Africa 2020 season.
In the cultural component of Africa 2020, how will the point of view of African youth be shared ?
I cannot tell you the program which will be unveiled in April. But today we are changing paradigm in our relationship with our African partners. For decades, we have had the “Africa and the Caribbean in creation” program where we welcome and support young artists outside their country and outside their continent. For example, with this program, someone like Angélique Kidjo knew the glory that we know, like Rokia Traoré. Today, the requirements of the present time justify that we no longer enter into a logic where we bring turnkey programs, but in a logic of co-construction with our partners. The best example is Les Rencontres de Bamako which became the first Biennale of the photographer in Africa. For the current edition which ends at the end of January, we have chosen to work on this new model of co-construction and even beyond. We have entrusted the assembly and engineering of this biennial to our Malian partners.
And will the same logic be applied for the most important contemporary dance meeting on the continent, the Biennale of dance in Africa 2020 which will open in March in Marrakech, Morocco ?
Yes, because it is a model that has been successful. Financially, we remained partners, but, basically, we entrust the management of the operation to our partners, by supporting them with our expertise and know-how when they ask us. The experience was conclusive in Bamako and we expect the same in Marrakech.
What other projects do you think embody the renewal of France's relationship with Africa?
The French Development Agency (AFD) entrusted us with two extremely important projects: the “Culture Access” program brings together over several years a set of micro-projects with all the facets of culture mobilized to create social ties. The second program concerns educational resources. The French Institute will bring children's books to the education systems of a number of French-speaking African countries. The third program is called Safir. We are mandated by the European Commission to support young entrepreneurs and change agents in North Africa and in three countries in the Middle East. These are three important projects that allow us to address African youth and express this renewal of France's relationship with the African continent.
► The highlights of the French Institute in 2020
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