ARTerial in Ethiopia: A new and prolific Pan African forum comes to Addis Ababa

Zela Gayle

The Arterial Network started as a dynamic, continent-wide network of non-government organizations, creative industry companies, festivals and individual artists engaged in the African creative sector at a conference dubbed ‘Revitalizing Africa’s Cultural Assets’ held in Goree Island, Senegal in March 2007.



At its second biennial meeting in Johannesburg in September 2009 attended by 132 delegates from 28 African countries, a decision was taken to build a more formal network which led to the adoption of a constitutional framework, the election of a ten-person steering committee (two per African region), the election of 28 country representatives and the adoption of strategic priorities for the next 3-5 years.

The creative sector

The launch of the Ethiopian Chapter to this Pan-African network took place on May 12, 2012, at the Jazzamba Lounge at Etegue Taitu Hotel in Addis Ababa in the presence of Ms. Korkor Amarteifio , the Steering Committee Chairperson from Ghana, who officially inaugurated ARTerial Network in Ethiopia.

In an exclusive interview with this magazine, Munit Mesfin, a prominent Jazz singer and Interim Country representative, says  “The first thing we are going to do is network with culture and arts practitioners to find out what kinds of challenges and opportunities they face within their respective industries.”   Munit says that was an important step “to have a base to measure from.”  “So we will be working with researchers, research institutes and universities.” She also said they were will conducts their “own research to gather information about what’s going on within the creative sector so that we can set the agenda on how to strengthen Ethiopia’s arts and culture sector.”

The Ethioppian version

ARTerial Network, which has its secretariat in Cape Town, South Africa, has a collective and unified set of aims. It aims to emphasis to build and further develop sustainable, national, regional and continental networks within and across arts disciplines.

There is a strong sense of this network being long overdue in Ethiopia. The simple act of coming together to grow together and strengthen each other will ensure that Ethiopian Arts and Culture stays connected with the rest of the African continent and the world at large.

Practitioners making a living & the Ethiopian Chapter

Between 150 – 200 individuals and associations were represented at the Ethiopian launch of ARTerial Network, and between 80 – 100 members came from all disciplines of the Arts such as writers, painters, musicians, dancers, film makers, photographers, researchers, promoters and designers.

The Ethiopian Chapter of ARTerial aims to strengthen the Art industry by asking the necessary questions amongst its members set to meet once every month. Different gatherings will be organized for the purpose of training, workshops and performances. To date, there has been very little data on the challenges and best practices of the creative sector in Ethiopia. Research will be carried out to find out the contributions of the creative sector to the overall economy of the nation.

According to Munit the Ethiopian Chapter will be unique to raise its own agenda based on its own national experience. “We will not be working on issues that are not directly relevant to our artists and our creative sector. So, the issues that we raise will be “Ethiopian issues”.  The mandate of ARTerial network is one that we have found logical, beneficial and very relevant to our context here in Ethiopia.”

This mandate includes, amongst other things, creating strong and sustainable networks between individuals and associations working in the creative sector and strengthening the capacity of individuals and associations working on the arts, from arts management to marketing and entrepreneurship.

It also aims conducting and availing research on the creative industry, including profiling artists, infrastructures in each discipline and supporting the creation and distribution of arts and creative products by creating ways to access national and regional arts markets.

“My next task along with the organizing committee is to organize more meetings for the members and the community so that we can properly grasp the work that ARTerial Network will be doing before we hold elections in August for a Steering Committee. Once the National Steering Committee has been elected, the leadership team will continue to work on the agenda set by the General Assembly as the priority for Ethiopia’s creative sector to grow,” Munit said.

As Ethiopia prepares for and merits her rightful place within ARTerial networking forum, now on the verge of cultural development, members will help to create the paths for Ethiopian cultural services, artists and their goods getting exposure by creating new opportunities to thrive. The organizing committee remarks, “We hope that all who live and work in the creative sector in Ethiopia will join us in organizing, networking and building our sector as a collective!”

With the efforts to build upon such a dynamic continent-wide ARTerial Network, the Ethiopian chapter aims not only to stand the test of time but has the strength and wisdom to succeed.

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