Foreign Cultural Centres in Africa: A New Form of Cultural Colonilzation?

War as a product of hard-diplomacy is gradually becoming old fashion more so because humanity has come to realize that war is neither an option to solving real issues especially considering the fact that it normally reaps the world of its treasures and very often brings untold hardships and severe set back to any nation that experienced it. Aside from that, the neighboursof any war zone do experience inherent threats of being affected in a number of ways. Hunger, economic backwardness, sicknesses, lost of lives, increase in crime rate etc, are all product of war. On the other hand, soft-diplomacy is gaining more ground day-by-day as international activities like games and sports and other multi-cultural activities of similar nature have helped in building the bridges of understanding between peoples and cultures across the globe. Another form of soft-diplomacy that has really being impactful in building human integration is the creation of cultural centers by countries to help educate people about the cultures and traditions of far distant nations.

The establishment of cultural centres by nations like Britain, Spain and Germany, to mention a few, has proven to be more effective in building peaceful relationship as well as bridging the differences among peoples of other nations. In the past (and even today), failure to understand one’s culture offers limited opportunities for an individual to operate or penetrate the business environment of a particular region. The issue is much more different today as organized cultural centres have been opened by different groups to help people overcome the major cultural barrier of language difference. The Goethe-Institut, for instance, offers students taking language courses with them on African continent an opportunity to travel to Germany and complete their studies. This gives them (students from Africa) an enormous opportunity to interact with people of Germany and also experience the other side of German culture which they are new to.

The British Council, in the same way, plays a similar role to the government of the United Kingdom (UK) by exposing people of the other nations to various aspects of the European (English or British) culture. Alliance Francaise, on the other hand, has remained active also in the promotion of French culture on African continent and other continents as well. The good aspect of these foreign cultural centres is that, they have contributed in a number of ways in the patronage as well as promotion of indigenous artists in Africa. For instance, Goethe-Institut, Lagos and Alliance Francaise in Kaduna sometimes engages artists through visual art projects like workshops, art exhibitions, and round-table discussions on various issues that will help in promoting the growth and development of the visual art sector.

Above all activities carried out by these foreign cultural centres on African continents have been beneficial to African artists; they also have their negative effect to the cultural environment of the respective nations where they are located. This is because they contribute to allowing foreign cultures to overshadow the home culture in some ways. Could this be another form of cultural colonization? I honestly think that this is not. However, the approach of African artists to the activities of these foreign cultural centres in African cities may make it so.

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