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On Africa Day, Concern Board Member Kevin Doris Ejon reflects on the origins of the landmark date and the importance of a holistic narrative that celebrates this diverse continent
It's Africa Day again and we will be celebrating the African continent's rich history - as well as the links between Africa and Ireland on 25 May. Happy Africa Day!
Africa Day has its roots in the establishment of the African Union (and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity) in May 1963. By the time the OAU was formed, the majority of African states had attained independence but the struggles for freedom in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, former Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa had still to run their course. The 25th of May was originally Africa Freedom Day but it has now rightfully been transformed into a day in which we acknowledge and celebrate my continent’s history, culture, traditions and our influence on the global stage. We remember that human history commenced in Africa and that we are all related to Africa.
In Ireland, we have been officially having a birthday party for Africa for almost 15 years and the big events that used to be organised in Dublin by the Department of Foreign Affairs at Iveagh Gardens, Dublin Castle and Farmleigh House have now been multiplied throughout the country. The events are owned by the local communities and local authorities and this is as it should be, as it facilitates the broadening of knowledge on Africa at the most important level - amongst communities where so many Africans live and work.
We have some way to go on the narrative of Africa in Ireland and, indeed, globally. We are a continent of 54 countries and over 2,000 languages – almost a third of the languages of the world! We are an incredibly diverse continent of peoples, histories and cultures. Yet, in many respects, Africa is constrained by a narrative of conflict, despair, hunger, poor governance and under-development. This narrative, which excludes Africa’s incredible beauty, the amazing resilience of its peoples, the incredible tenacity and entrepreneurship of African women, and the spirit of hope engendered by a new young generation of Africans, must change.
In Ireland, I see a new story of Africa slowly taking shape. I see the emergence of groups of talented young Africans, speaking their truth in words and song, and connecting with similarly talented young Irish artists. They are creating a new narrative piece-by-piece. Story by story. Song by song. Sure, there are setbacks. The journey is a long one - but a positive course has been set.
Happy Africa Day!
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