Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

UNESCO joins Africa Day celebrations of unity

On May 25, 1963, 32 African states joined together to create what would become the African Union to fight colonialism. Fifty years on, that goal of unity is still being sought.

During three days, a sea of stalls with crafted prints and African jewelry lined the halls of Unesco in Paris.

The UN’s cultural arm was the meeting point for over forty African nations, gathered to celebrate Africa Week.

This annual event aimed at showcasing the continent’s cultural and artistic heritage happened to fall on Africa Day.

“It’s not a coincidence,” Firmin Matoko, Assistant Director General for Africa at Unesco, told RFI.

“We do relate our celebrations here with Africa Day to remind ourselves about its message.”

Originally, May 25 was a crowning moment for African unity. It was on this day in 1963, that 32 African states joined together to create what would become the African Union to fight colonialism and the apartheid.

“Member states have decided to celebrate in one week so that they have time and space to show what is Africa in its diversity,” he adds.

And this diversity attracted wide attention.

African pride

Teachers brought their pupils to see the colourful stands, while curious onlookers eyed objects to buy.

“I’m feeling really great, because I’m proud to represent my continent here in Europe,” Julie Hoffman, the owner of a stall dedicated to Uganda, told RFI.

“During this day, we really showcase what Africa is, our crafts and agricultural products,” she says, while selling a pot of Shea butter to a consumer.

“Some people are surprised about how rich Africa is, others know it already, and keep coming for Africa Week to come and get that joy, that culture, that touch of Africa,” she says.

For Matoko, “it’s amazing to see the interests of Africans to show what they have as part of their identity.”

This year, they expressed their identity through their cultural heritage.

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