"There should be more opportunities for everyone in the UK to experience contemporary African arts & culture"

Monday, 3 June 2019
Sheila Ruiz, Marcelle Mateki Akita, Caitlin Pearson

The offer of contemporary African arts and culture currently presented in the UK is limited, but there is a clear openness and appetite amongst audiences for more. A report launched by the Royal African Society on Monday 3rd June 2019 in partnership with the British Council, presents original research on present-day public perceptions and audience engagement with contemporary African arts and culture.  Entitled Contemporary African Arts: Mapping Perceptions, Insights and UK-Africa Collaborations, the report aims to provide guidance and insight to UK programmers in their endeavour to navigate the African creative sectors and explores the untapped opportunity to expand and improve the existing offer for the UK’s increasingly diverse audiences.  

Featuring specially-commissioned essays and 16 exclusive interviews with leading contemporary African arts professionals, the report provides new insight and inspiration on best practice programming, successful Africa-UK collaborations and audience development strategies. It includes audience polling of over 2,300 British adults and accompanying analysis of audience engagement and perceptions. It also maps some of the most exciting contemporary African arts festivals and initiatives taking place in Africa and the UK, across the arts spectrum, including Visual Arts, Literature, Film, Architecture, Fashion and Design, Performance and Dance, and Music. 

As a membership organisation that works to amplify African voices and interests in academia, business, politics, the arts and education, we at the Royal African Society believe that contemporary African arts and culture ought to be front and centre of the international contemporary arts scene, contributing fresh perspectives and ideas to global conversations and expanding our sense of humanity.   

Both the British Council and the Royal African Society have shared missions of promoting knowledge and understanding between the peoples of the UK, Africa and the wider world. This report feeds into our strategic aim of connecting leading African creatives and thought leaders with diverse audiences and arts practitioners in the UK, fostering mutuality and stronger collaborative relations. We also wanted to take stock and gauge perceptions and current levels of engagement with contemporary African arts by UK audiences to set some baselines and have sound evidence from which to work.  

The results of our research are a clear call to action to present more audience-led contemporary African arts programmes in the UK, based on strong collaborations with artists and programmers on the continent. Arts venues, programmers and curators can and should do more on this front and we hope this report serves as a useful resource and enabler for this positive cultural shift. 

Read the report here.