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« There is
a pain here searing
from West to East,
a blood that cries
from the earth up to the sky.
If I showed it to you,
it would blind your eyes.
If I made you listen to it,
it would deafen your ears. »
Koffi Kwahulé, P’tite-Souillure, Théâtrales, p. 60

This is the 50th issue of Africultures – our golden anniversary! Five years after we first started, 6112 pages have been published and over 2000 articles written by nearly 300 writers in a journal that is now denser, better illustrated, and better presented…
Better still, these five years have constituted an exciting and enriching adventure. Not in financial terms, of course, but that was the challenge we set ourselves – to exist without State backing because that is the price you have to pay to guarantee critical autonomy. That meant that we had to start out with something simple and inexpensive, however, which would not have worked had it not been for the quality of its contents. The editorial committee, which grew out of the dynamic of another monthly journal, La Lettre des musiques et des arts africains, a journal that lasted five years thanks to the determination of Fayçal Chehat, remains unfailingly true to its commitment. Bolstered by the loyal support of the CNL, the FAS, and Editions L’Harmattan, it is constantly attracting new energies and new writers.
We banked right from the start on the Internet. Our constantly evolving website has now become a reference for all thanks to its impressive mass of information and useful data banks. The secret of our longevity is that we have indeed kept the Africultures dynamic going by enhancing our thus developed know-how. Things are still hard, of course, but we are consolidating our position daily thanks to our numerous partners.
You will already be aware that we are working on a new Africultures for 2003. This new format will allow us to continue to provide critical information on a day-to-day basis on the Internet whilst also offering a more analytical, in-depth journal that is better equipped to highlight the contributions African cultural forms make to the understanding and questioning of our world.
The present format will continue until the end of 2002, with a dossier this month on the contemporary living arts scene. But be warned, the subject isn’t « African theatre » any more than it is « African dance ». On the contrary, we have tried to incorporate the diverse range of artistic undertakings that these excessively broad terms cover. We thus regularly report on African creations (notably on the occasions of the 1999 and 2001 MASAs – c.f. Africultures 18 « New African Creations » and Africultures 38 « The Living Arts in Africa » – and of course in our festival reports and review columns). We also highlight the contemporary experimentation that, beyond the socio-political satires often explored by African artists confronted by the disillusions of their countries’ realities, attempts both a personal and universal, less geographically determined vision in which Africa thinks itself in global terms.
It is the word « contemporary » that counts most of all in this title, therefore, because this is precisely what people deny Africa. Africa’s constant confinement to all that is ancestral, mythical, or primitive refuses the contemporaneity of artistic works whose themes, undertakings and forms are perfectly contemporary, causing numerous festivals to « overlook » them in their programmes. The word also counts because the new styles dialogue with contemporary European creation. They no longer address just an African audience, therefore, but rather all those who, aware of contemporary violence, of the « searing pain » that Koffi Kwahulé refers to, recognise that Africa has something to tell the world. This something is not about fixed identities, but is about Africa’s experience of modernity, of roving, of being caught between two cultures, of want. Whereas post-independence artworks strove to fill the cultural and identity voids, these works assume the voids left by History as a question put to a world whose references are being blown away by the winds of standardisation and isolationism. This existential questioning challenges established references. If it speaks so much to us all, irrespective of borders, it is because it guides us in our own quest for a way forward.
A lot of festivals continue to clutch at backward-looking visions of Africa. France’s Overseas Territories share this invisibility, which makes the TOMA initiative at Avignon a happy exception. We backed it right from the start, chairing roundtables and reporting on its shows. This dossier also testifies to the initiatives that help put the black world on contemporary stages, because our ears truly need to be deafened.

///Article N° : 5614


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