14 December 2017

Shared History, Shared Challenges, Shared Efforts – Preserving Francophone African Heritage

Presentation of the final report of the Dakar Conference

Presentation of the final report of the Dakar conference (Photo: ASBAD). (l-r) Mandiaye Ndiaye, Véronique Thome, Prof. Saliou Mbaye, Marwa El Sahn, Sophie Madiba

The countries of French-speaking Africa have a rich and diverse history. Much of this is recorded not through books or manuscripts, but through a vibrant tradition of oral history and know-how. Yet with preservation practices not always well-suited to these forms of heritage, and limited resources available, the need for cooperation in order to ensure that they are not lost is essential.

Taking advantage of the common language, a group of committed and passionate librarians from across francophone Africa met in Senegal on 17-19 November in order to reflect on how to respond to the challenge. IFLA was represented by Marwa El Sahn, Governing Board Member, who gave an introduction to IFLA’s broader engagement on safeguarding cultural heritage.

Building on the work of the Francophone Africa Preservation and Conservation Centre, and in particular Sophie Madiba, the conference looked at particular at how to help Africans take a more active role in defining their own documentary heritage. In order to take steps to preserve, it is important that everyone sees the cultural value of what they are doing.

Participants at the Dakar Workshop

Participants at the conference: (l-r) Mandiaye Ndiaye (IFLA Leaders Programme Associate); the National Archivist of Senegal; Director of Studies of the National School Library of Senegal; John Tsebe, President of AfLIA; Delegate from ALA; Sophie Madiba (right)

Other sessions focused on the treasures that administrative archives may contain, how effectively to build partnerships between institutions and countries, and the urgent need to act to save audiovisual heritage, often recorded on media that are decaying or obsolete.

Despite the challenges, the conference ended on a note of optimism. Participants explored how to collect information on available resources, to concentrate scarce funding to support this work, and to find ways of continuing the discussion.

The conference may have been the first such attempt to bring together librarians involved in safeguarding cultural heritage in Francophone Africa, but will hopefully not be the last!

You can download the full report from the conference (in French) as a pdf.

PAC (Preservation and Conservation), Africa, Preservation, oral heritage

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