The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part two in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.
After almost thirty years of war, the Angolan cultural infrastructure was completely destroyed. Since the arrival of peace in 2002 the arts sector has concentrated on recovery.
Every year, on 8 January, the National Day of Culture is held as a tribute to poet Agostinho Neto, Angola’s first president. On that day in 1979, he delivered a speech on national unity - he saw culture as the main connecting medium. But as a result of the war, the arts were not a priority any longer and the national museums, archives and cultural infrastructure declined. Recovery is now the main concern.
A few years ago, the stage of the National Theatre in Luanda resembled a moon landscape and its plush chairs were covered in dust. Now performances are held in this theatre again. The new cultural centre Agostinho Neto also opened its doors. And in Atlântico not only films are shown again, the cinema now also hosts a hiphop festival and the Miss Angola elections.
The provisional Angolan cultural policy, as presented by minster Boaventura Cardoso in March 2003, is aimed at making culture accessible for everybody. In addition, new technologies should improve the state of museums and archives. Tax benefits should boost investment in art. The government has recenlty commissioned an extensive research project into the history of Angolan literature. And since 2000, the National Culture Award has been granted annually in order to encourage the arts.
The most ambitious project is probably I Trienal de Arte e Cultura Contemporânea. This modern art manifestation starting in November 2005 with the audiovisual festival Observatório de Imagética Africana should eventually lead to TACCA, a permanent centre for contemporary art in Luanda in 2008.