What is the World Day for African and Afrodescendant Culture? – ADJOAA
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What is the World Day for African and Afrodescendant Culture?

In 2019, a landmark decision occurred. UNESCO adopted the 24th of January as the World Day for African and Afrodescent Culture (WDAAC). For too long, Africa’s contributions to the wider world have been pushed to the side, and the discourse surrounding Africa has been dominated by a colonial and Western perspective. The decision to dedicate a day to celebrate the intellectual and artistic contributions of Africans and people of African descent shows that history is being seen in all its multicultural beauty. 

But the emergence of this day brings about other questions: how did this day come about? How is WDAAC celebrated? And where to from here? 

How did the WDAAC become established? 

The creation of this day started before 2019 and back to 2006 when the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance was adopted by the African Union (AU). The African Union consists of 55 member states located on the continent of Africa. It was officially launched on July 26, 2001, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and replaced the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which was established in 1963. The overall mission of the AU is to promote unity, cooperation, and development among African countries through pan-African unity. 

The Charter for African Cultural Renaissance was developed in response to the dominance of colonial and Western perspectives when discussing African culture and history. After many African countries had regained independence, they agreed that cultural knowledge is part of politics and that to regain full autonomy means taking back the traditions that have been taken from them. So, the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance was established on the 24th of January in 2006 as a way to revive African culture. The meaning of culture itself includes language, arts, literature, traditions and much more. 

So, it’s no coincidence that the WDAAC coincides with this charter. The commemoration of WDAAC not only serves as a celebration of diverse cultures but also endeavours to encourage widespread endorsement and execution of the Charter by African States. To achieve this, the focus of WDAAC extends beyond the celebration of a singular cultural identity to encompass a rich tapestry of African cultures. The day serves as a tribute to artists from every corner of the continent and across various disciplines, ranging from film, music, and dance to fashion and design. These creative industries play a vital role in sustaining artists and contribute significantly to fostering the African cultural renaissance.

How is WDAAC celebrated?

This event is still young and the celebrations and awareness of this day have a lot of room to expand and grow. But in the past couple of years, WDAAC has been marked by artistic and educational events alongside cultural exchanges between African countries and different cities throughout the world

Last year, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network organised international cultural exchanges and events highlighting African cultures. For example, the Chinese city of Weifang, known for its crafts and folk art, welcomed African students from countries like Zimbabwe and Mali. This event deepened the ties between China and the African countries involved to develop a mutual understanding and appreciation for different cultures. Other countries involved in this initiative include Parma in Italy, a UNESCO-recognised city of gastronomy. Parma hosted ‘World Food and Cultures: Africa’, which highlighted the traditional food of African countries like Senegal, Ethiopia and Morocco.  

Outside of the creative cities network, other cities and countries celebrated WDAAC in collaboration with UNESCO. In 2022, the government of Ghana along with the Associations of African Universities (AAU), had a colloquium addressing crucial themes related to African and Afro-descendant cultures. These issues covered the incorporation of African history and culture in education and creative industries, as well as reconciliation. The colloquium was followed by “High Life”, a musical event that featured performances from some of Ghana’s most acclaimed musicians. 

What’s next for WDAAC? 

The 2024 celebrations of WDAAC will likely be along the same lines as previous years, with the continuance of exchanges in cultural exchanges and highlighting different aspects of African culture throughout the world. However, outside of UNESCO-organised collaborations, there seems to be little activity and recognition of this day outside of UNESCO bodies, institutions and governments. 

The average person of African descent seems to know little about this momentous day or even the history of it, like the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance. Since the days of colonialism and slavery, many people of African descent have been severed from their cultures and traditions. So, while this is an admirable start to WDAAC, more effort should be put into spreading the word about African culture from a grassroots level. Schools, museums, libraries and other institutions associated with culture, knowledge and the arts should also be encouraged to celebrate WDAAC in their own way. 

The beauty of African cultures from Morocco in the north to South Africa is that individuals have their own way of celebrating tradition and African accomplishments. Too much micromanagement can take away from the diversity of culture. But as mentioned earlier, this movement is still young, and it will take time to see how WDAAC catches on and becomes a truly globally recognised event. 

One way to celebrate African and Afrodescent culture every day is to support Black-owned businesses. At ADJOAA, all of our 100+ African fashion brands are ethical and are champions of the African experience. From the imagery associated with African queens in Loza Malēombho to the Ghanaian-origin Sankofa bird in Boyedoe’s pieces, each African brand on ADJOAA has an amazing story to share.

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