Bristol UNESCO City of Film and Dakar UNESCO City of Media Arts strengthen links through cultural exchange

Natalie MooreBristol, Collaborative, Network

In Autumn 2018, the Afrika Eye Festival of Bristol, UK and Image et Vie festival of Dakar, the capital of Senegal, are worked together on the first collaborative cultural exchange since the two cities became united as members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The project saw two young artists from each city taking up a two week residency in the partner city. Following an introduction to the city by the festival team, the artists will be invited to create a short film, documenting first impressions and specific personal responses to a new cultural environment. The resulting film, accompanying music/songs were showcased at each festival and distributed across a number of digital platforms.

The exchange was made possible by The British Council through the Our City: Your Eyes initiative. As well as building stronger links between the two festivals, the aims of the project were:

  • To extend opportunities to young and emerging film-makers, musicians and festival organisers to develop their practice within a new cultural environment
  • To open up opportunities for shared initiatives between festivals in West Africa and UK
  • To raise the profile of African and Diaspora artists within the creative industries

Festival Directors Khalilou Ndiaye in Dakar and Annie Menter & Andy Morgan in Bristol oversaw the project at each festival, liaising in Bristol with Come the Revolution, a collective of curators, programmers and creatives committed to exploring and challenging black life experienced cultural expression through cinema. All activities took place in Bristol and Dakar. The artists had opportunities to visit universities, film and music studios, creative hubs, arts and community projects and share experiences with other young creatives and professionals. The aims of the project were to extend the artists’ knowledge and assist in developing individual practice through these interactive experiences.

Making the trip from Bristol to Dakar were 24-year-old Joel Douglas – Bristol-born and raised poet, rapper and music producer of Jamaican/Pakistani descent who performs as Splitz P, and British Rwandan Pierre Niyongira (21) – Bristol-based film student. Bristol, in turn, hosted two Senegalese emerging arts professionals – film maker Kady Diedhou and festival organiser Fatou Diabel Mbaye -who will then take their Our City: Your Eyes inspirations back home with them to Dakar. Before departing for Senegal, exchange participant Pierre Niyongira said:

“I am most excited to experience the Senegalese creative art scene in Dakar specifically meeting all the different artists that Dakar has to offer. Senegal is known for its fashion, music and contemporary art and that has contributed to some of today’s artistic thinking. Besides the art scene, I am also looking forward to being a part of the culture, meeting the people and visiting all the famous landmarks.” 

Khalilou N’Diaye, Director of Images et Vie Film Festival in Dakar, who initiated the project in partnership with Afrika Eye Festival and The British Council commented:

“Our City: Your Eyes is important for the Image et Vie Festival, which has a tradition of exchanging and collaborating with foreign organisations and has received young people from many different horizons in the past. Our two representatives, Fatou Diabel Mbaye and Kady Diedhiou have been part of these journeys of exchange, but only to Francophone countries. This trip will allow them to discover British culture, but also to meet other artists and open themselves to new horizons. The enthusiasm of Joel and Pierre, the welcome and the easy interaction they’ve had with Senegalese artists, leads us to think that Fatou and Kady will enjoy a similar experience in Bristol.”

The project contributes to the wider city aims for both Bristol UNESCO City of Film and Dakar UNESCO City of Media Arts. It marks the beginning of stronger creative links between the two cities – cities with much in common – and fosters collaboration across the global North and South.

Natalie Moore, Project Manager for Bristol UNESCO City of Film said:

Bristol’s diverse communities have long contributed to the vibrant film heritage and culture the city has become renowned for. This new collaboration with Dakar City of Media Arts is particularly exciting because it is the first between Bristol and a fellow UNESCO Creative City in Africa. It builds on the creative links between Bristol and Africa that Afrika Eye Festival has been developing and celebrating for many years and we hope it will lead to ongoing creative collaboration between Bristol and Dakar. Nearing the end of Bristol’s first year as City of Film, this project is a fitting achievement and a good example of the opportunities for international connection that the status brings.

Read more information about the project here.

You can watch the film made by Pierre Niyongira about his impressions of Dakar here.