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AFRICULTURBAN: Celebrating 6 Years

Jan, 16, 2012 - Kate Declerck

Africulturban lies at the heart of Dakar’s hip hop movement for social change, a non-profit organization that facilitates dialogue and collaboration among artists, helps them build their skills through free workshops and training programs, and assists artists in gaining professional experience and reaching wider audiences for their work.

The name Africulturban combines the words Africa (in French Afrique), Culture and Urban - an apt synthesis of the organization’s focus. It was founded in 2006 by the prominent Senegalese hip hop artist Matador who, inspired by the urban arts organizations and support structures he came to discover during his international tours, set out to establish a support structure for young artists in Pikine Senegal, an underprivileged suburb east of Dakar with a population of more than 1 million.

From humble beginnings in a 1-room, ill-equipped office, Africulturban today has 10 full-time staff people and operates as vibrant community centre within the L.S Senghor Cultural Complex servicing over 1,000 members with a recording studio and activities that embrace the various artistic disciplines of urban culture: breakdance, mcing, djing, rap, slam, graffiti and urban wear.

Africulturban has successfully brought the thriving urban arts scene of Dakar’s suburbs into the national spotlight, through local and satellite events at Dakar’s other main cultural venues (including the Blaise Senghor Cultural Center, Goethe-Institute, and Institut Français) and neighboring cities of Ouakam and Rufisque; as well as to global audiences through it’s annual Festa2h hip hop festival which showcases local talents alongside international acts, and is now coming into it’s 7th edition.

Attended by 25,000 people per year, Festa2h affirms the scale of Dakar’s hip hop community - a community which has not only produced exceptional artists, but has unified and given voice to the city’s marginalized youth, which despite representing over 60% of the population, struggle both to be heard and to overcome social and financial barriers to education, health care and employment – in order to realize their capacities as civic leaders.

Africulturban is now undertaking a new initiative to further support and document the actions of Dakar’s urban youth movement, through the creation of Africa’s first dedicated hip hop training and documentation center - Africulturban’s Hip Hop Akademy - supported by the US Embassy in Dakar, Trust Africa and additional partners, to be launched this week.

“The Hip Hop Akademy will serve as a platform for exposing and promoting Senegalese urban culture internationally, through intercultural exchange programs, international events, and in collaboration with libraries, youth, community and arts centres, historians and educators globally, to document and archive the history of the youth art movement of Senegal and similar socio-political movements around the world” said the Akademy’s Chief Executive Officer Amadou Fall Ba.

With 6-years of experience behind them, and as much passion and dedication as in the earliest days, Africulturban serves as an inspiration to all those who value the arts as a communicator of the knowledge, experience and condition of urban youth.

In video: Shot on location at the Africulturban centre, this track by War-J, a young rapper from Pikine, addresses the issue of corruption stating “lawyers based in silence under the influence of bribes / corruption is suffocating us / today, it is our responsibility to find solutions - awareness through our actions / officials, community leaders diverting public money landing in their account he must be condemned”. The video was created as a submission to the JMI Foundation Fair Play Anti-Corruption Youth Voices competition. Full translation of the lyrics available here.

19-20 January 2012, Africulturban will mark its 6th anniversary with a two-day celebration and inauguration of the Hip Hop Akademy at the L.S Senghor Cultural Complex in Pikine. More info


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