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Algiers to Host 2nd Pan-African Culture Festival

Algeria is preparing to host the second Pan-African Culture Festival, and the first in 40 years. The event hopes to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Algiers this July to celebrate Africa's artistic renaissance.

Khalida Toumi was a young girl in 1969 when her hometown, Algiers was briefly transformed into the continent's culture capital. That first Pan-African Culture Festival made a lasting impression. Today, as Algeria's culture minister, she is organizing a re-creation of that magnificent event in cooperation with the African Union.

Toumi says those heady days of liberation have given way to a new, almost completely independent Africa.

"In 1969 the call of the hour was liberation, because many an African country was not yet free and those who were had just obtained their liberation. It was a value," Toumi said. "Today if I refer to the member states of the African Union, of the 53 countries, 52 are independent. Only one is not independent. Otherwise we would say Africa has liberated itself."

Toumi says the festival will celebrate the revival of Africa's artistic greatness.

"Africa is in full renaissance. A renaissance at full swing. This why the slogan of the second Pan African Culture Festival is The African Renaissance, which we called literally in English, Africa is back," Toumi said.

The Algerian minister says every African art form will be welcomed at this two-week celebration.

"This fair will have both aspects, material and intangible, as well as the visual arts, paintings, culture, art, photography and including the fashion, since there is a whole movement in Africa of the creation of the fashion art, which is being developed," the minister said.

AU Social Affairs Commissioner Bience Gawanas says the pan-African body is backing the cultural festival as a statement of Africa's resurgence.

"It is part of our very, very broad mandate, and that is to create an image of Africa, an image of Africa that does not only speak of conflicts, an image of Africa that does not only speak of diseases, but an image of Africa as the cradle of humankind," Gawanas said.

Officials say the gathering, from July 5 through 20, will feature thousands of artists from Africa and the African diaspora, from wherever people of African origin may be. They say the hope is that it will become more frequently scheduled, not something that happens every 40 years.