The African Union opens its first Pan African Cultural Congress today (Monday) at its headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Cultural experts and civil society representatives will re-examine the challenges and opportunities in the cultural sector, especially in the context of globalization and the new information and communication technologies.  Bience Gawanas is the African Union?s commissioner for social affairs. She explains to VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty the objectives of the Cultural Congress.

?The main purpose of the first Pan African Cultural Congress is to provide a platform for cultural practitioners and policy makers to discuss and debate on cultural issues, basically to se the cultural agenda for Africa. And this is in recognition of the fact that when we are discussing Africa and integration, we cannot forget the fact that cultural integration is as important as economic integration. And this congress is being conducted under the theme: Culture, integration, and African renaissance,? she said.

At independence, African countries took initiatives to preserve and promote the continent?s cultural heritage by establishing government ministries in charge of culture. Gawanas says the cultural renaissance hopes to revive the continent?s cultural institutions.

?The liberation struggle on the continent was fought on the basis of preserving our culture. Many at times the colonialists wanted to destroy our culture, our identity, and our being as people. And what we are doing is really to say that we cannot do anything on this continent without taking into account our cultural heritage. So you are absolutely right because many of our children, when I look at our children today, I?m sorry to say, when I look at today on this continent, they want to become like Americans. They speak like Americans; they dress like Americans. Is that what we want? So the whole issue of the rebirth of Africa is really to reclaim what is rightfully ours,? Gawanas said.

She says the African cultural renaissance will take into consideration globalization and the new information and communication technologies.

?One of the themes that we regard as a cross-cultural theme at this congress is going to be on culture, the media, and new technology. And we are saying that new technologies are very important vehicles or instruments for promoting our culture. The power of the Internet, the power of the electronic media can never be underestimated.  We hope to somehow marry culture and new technology,? Gawanas said. 

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