With its motto 'act locally, impact globally' the ARTerial Network connects more than one hundred artists and cultural organisations in Africa together. The exchange of information and lobbying are needed to strengthen the African art sector. What has the network done for art organisations on the African continent? Five views from five countries: Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Egypt. "The power lies in the collective voice."
The ARTerial Network brought artists, cultural organisations, art businesses and culture activists together on the island of Gorée, Senegal in 2007, with the conviction that the continent has enough cultural capital to build lively national art sectors. African art is distinctive and a part of daily life. The continent has brought forth enough role models to inspire new generations.
At the top of the list's ten top priorities is serving the interests of the art sector with the various governments, under the motto ‘locally, impact globally'. ARTerial wants to be an organisation of private initiatives that covers the entire continent. Supported by international treaties it strives to pressure governments into keeping the promises made within the Unesco or African framework. One example is the Nairobi Plan of Action for Cultural Industries signed by the ministers of Culture in Algiers in October 2008.
The founding conference for the ARTerial Network in March of 2007 identified a lack of lobby activities to give culture a more prominent place on national political agendas. Other shortcomings identified included reliable statistics on the African art sector, local distribution channels and sound art training programmes. This is why knowledge and information serve as the second foundation of the ARTerial Network. The network studied the impact the arts have on African economies, launched a web site on art in Africa, published a monthly newsletter by e-mail and organised courses on art journalism and art marketing. It also welcomed participants from seventeen African countries to Cape Town for a Winter School on networking and supporting interests in the arts.
Another important initiative is a study of the possibilities for establishing a continental fund for the arts. An African culture fund of this type, which is intended to be independent because its funding will come from various sources, does not exist as yet. Although Unesco has established the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), this fund has less than a million dollars at its disposal. There are also regional funds, for example the fund established by the Economic Union of West African States (Ecowas) and the Arabian Fund for Art and Culture (AFAC).
The growth of the ARTerial Network was particularly evident during the second conference held from 19 to 21 September 2009 in Johannesburg. The number of participants had more than doubled: now there were 114 delegates from 28 African countries. A newly-elected executive committee with ten members, with two representatives each from North, East, West, Central and Southern Africa, will set the course in the coming years. One of its most important tasks is formalising the network; agreement was reached in Johannesburg about the organisation’s charter.