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Last Updated: Friday, 25 February, 2005, 17:39 GMT
Is there a future for the African arts?
Lead star Leleti Khumalo.
'Yesterday', first South African film to be nominated for the Oscars

Images of abduction and torture, civil war, a journey into the colonial past and crazy love, that's just a taste of what's on offer at Africa's mega film festival, FESPACO 2005, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The week-long festival, starting 26 February to 5 March, has attracted more than 20 films competing for the top prize - L'Etalon de Yennenga (The stallion of Yennenga).

But even as the curtains open for the continent's premier film festival, there are concerns about the distribution of locally produced films.

Most of them hardly find an audience at home or even within the continent itself - why?

BBC's Africa Live looks at challenges facing not just the film industry but also the state of the arts in the continent: When is the last time you watched an African movie, read a novel by one of your own, bought a local painting or even a CD of your local musician?

Tell us: Does your government care about the arts - are they investing enough in the development and promotion of the arts? What difference have artists, musicians, writers and film makers, made to your country?

Join BBC Africa Live debate on Wednesday 02 March at 1630 & 1830GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments - and your personal stories - some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.


Read a section of your messages below:

It is sad that traditional musicians live on handouts and charity.
Mustapha Kah, University of the Gambia
Unless Africans give more respect to our culture and heritage, they will soon be consigned to history. It is sad that traditional musicians live on handouts and charity.
Mustapha Kah, University of the Gambia

It's African art, at all levels, that keeps the African soul alive despite the hardships we endure.
Isabella Kapolo, Windhoek, Namibia

The music industry is growing rapidly here in my country, Sierra Leone. The youth, who make up the bulk of the population, are using this medium to preach about the failures of our government.
Murtala, Sierra Leone

African artists have themselves to blame for the loss of local fans and local support. They imitate western culture, like hip-hop music and Hollywood styles, and ignore rich African traditions and heritage. Many artists in Africa have no local audience because their themes are immoral, especially the musicians. Governments are not to blame for woes of the African artist.
Yussuf Dayib Ali, Nairobi, Kenya

Watching these movies gave me a whole new insight into Africa.
Princess, New York, USA
I am a Jamaican who saw her first Nigerian movie two years ago and who has been hooked ever since. I love them so much so that I have introduced them to my closest friends and family who now also enjoy them. Coming from Jamaica, I had a mixed exposure to Africans and their customs. Watching these movies gave me a whole new insight into Africa, plus admiration and pride. I could go on and on...
Princess, Jamaica/USA

Having volunteered in Ghana, I found the best artists and musicians were out on the streets. It was eye-opening seeing beautifully painted, multi-coloured canvases unfurled by the side of the road or watching impromptu drumming and dancing taking place in the streets. It was amazing to see such a wealth of talent and a real shame to realise much of it will go largely unrecognised.
Richard Freedman, Brighton, England

It seems obvious why we are we are so far behind in the industry: our governments don't even realise the importance of entertainment to society. How many African countries have "hall of fame" to honour those who have contributed to the art industry. to me is not is not late, there is still time to clean up.let the upcoming ones love and build on the foundation (technologically).
Owusu Poku, Ohio, USA

Africa has a bright future in the arts arena, but if those that have the resources would let us have a share of them. We have great talent in Malawi. Try us and see for yourself!
M'theto Lungu, Lilongwe, Malawi

The question should not be whether African art has a future, but how to promote it to the world.
Yisacc Demoz, Los Angeles, USA
Yes, definitely. African art has had a tremendous influence on the entire world. The question should not be whether African art has a future, but how to successfully promote and market it to the rest of the world.
Yisacc Demoz, Los Angeles, USA

Until piracy and funding issues are addressed, African art will never see the light of the international stage. It might drift into oblivion even within our own lands.
Josiah Z, New York, USA

Though I am a Ghanaian, I enjoy Nigeria films because most of them are educative and professional.
Bawuah George, Kumasi - Ghana

The best African novelists, actors, singers and performers are from our parents' generation. There's hardly any young talented writer or singer who sings pure African music without the influence of hip hop, (although Lagbaja and Femi Kuti are exceptions). And sadly all our writers seem to write about these days is witchcraft and supernatural things. This may be fascinating to a foreigner or an outsider, but when you have been bred on a diet of poor quality, cheaply produced Nigerian and Ghanaian Movies like I have, it's very hard to envision a future for African art.
Nike Oyerinde, USA

Africa doesn't lack the artistic talent, but this talent often dies due to the disinterest of national governments.
Shib SenChaudhury, India
'Yesterday' is the movie which has put African art on the world map. Such movies display that Africa doesn't lack the artistic talent, but this talent often languishes and dies due to poor infrastructure and the disinterest of national governments. The time has come to wake up and treasure the continent's gifts before they get buried forever.
Shib SenChaudhury, Calcutta, India

In my view, the government in Ghana does not care about culture, as proved by the sale of the Ghana Film Theatre. We are blindly chasing and copying all kinds of foreign cultures and our leaders, who should set an example, are the worse culprits. How can we develop when we don't know who we are? We need to tell our own story.
John Mensah, UK

As a filmmaker based in both Los Angeles and Nairobi, I often ask myself is there a future for filmmakers in Africa? My answer is a resounding yes. But the solution is not necessarily more government support. In East Africa, the problem is two-fold: a lack of home grown support for African films and a lack of appreciation by the filmmakers for their audiences. In many cases, African films are topic driven on matters like HIV/AIDs, poverty, war, etc. These topics are of interest to the United Nations and the government, but they don't speak about the daily lives of the people themselves. Like all people, Africans want to see themselves on film. They want to see strong dynamic and engaging characters, and they want well-told stories. Film is part of popular culture, it is not just for the intelligentsia. African filmmakers and filmmakers working in Africa should seek to tell engaging, well written and well structured stories that speak about the lives of ordinary people.
Nathan Collett, Los Angeles, USA

African musicians are from a generation that has completely lost touch with the youth.
Olu Onuidele, Ibadan, Nigeria
No, there is no future for the arts in Africa. Take a look at the Nigerian movie industry: the movies have very similar, narrow-minded plots all about witchcraft and wizardry, evil relatives and crime; the production is almost invariably bad; the audio is of poor quality; and the acting is often abysmal. And as for the music industry, the best African musicians are from a generation that has completely lost touch with the youth. My parents may think Fela Kuti and Mariam Makeba are great, but let's face it, globalisation has brought hip hop and rap to the streets of Lagos, Capetown, etc. African music now just seems to be very unattractive.
Olu Onuidele, Ibadan, Nigeria

Nollywood has put Nigeria on the international map of indigenous films.The quality of the films is questionable, but they provide great excitement nevertheless. The government should look into the issue of piracy so that the industry can survive and grow.
Chinedu Ibeabuchi, Lagos, Nigeria

African films are watched by Africans at home and abroad. The Nigerian film industry is a multi-million dollar industry but the films get too repetitive. To boost African arts, I think we should concentrate on creating anti-dictatorship writings, plays, films and acts. The only thing haunting Africa today is bad governance and not our colonial past, cultism etc. as portrayed by our film industry.
Chigbu Uchendu, Uturu, Nigeria

I am not surprised at all that governments in Africa are not interested in developing the arts. They don't care about putting Africa on the map, they only care about what goes in their pockets.
Vivian Beyan, Baltimore, USA

Our artists often bring to light the dirty deals of our governments.
Odjo Dweh, Alta, Norway
Most of the governments in Africa don't fund artists or promote the arts because our artists often bring to light the dirty deals of these governments. Despite their underfunding, our artists will keep exposing the dirty deals as long as there are private sector funds to finance them.
Odjo Dweh, Alta, Norway

African artists play a major role in my life. I listen to songs from various parts of Africa: north, south, east, and west. We do have local music producers in Southern Sudan but they are not well known. What we need is better promotion.
Peter Dut Angon, Sudanese/USA

African art is one of the oldest arts in the world. It has survived looting by the colonialists and will continue to survive in the future. The question now is, will colonialists ever stop looting African art?
Yonas Buraka, Seattle, USA

I am confident that Africa's distinct music will not disappear.
Anton Jongeneel, formerly of Nouakchott, Mauritania
Youssou N'Dour of Senegal won a Grammy this month for his album 'Egypt'. It made me very happy to see one of my favourite African artists being recognised, and it was much deserved. With the Griots in West Africa passing on their musical talents and strong heritage from one family member to the next, and Griots now making appearances on the world stage, I am confident that Africa's distinct music will not disappear. In fact it will continue to influence music around the world as Malian music influenced the blues, and other African beats influenced Caribbean trends. I expect Africa to continue its vibrancy of artistic culture with or without help from governments. Don't underestimate the resiliency of Africans and their culture.
Anton Jongeneel, formerly of Nouakchott, Mauritania

Will anyone who doesn't have enough food to eat ever care about anything else like the artrs?
Osman Njie, Cairo Egypt

Many African nations should be more proud of their cultural heritage.
Wigbert Boell, New York, USA
The African film industry has made many outstanding works, like 'Yeelen', 'Hyenes' or the films of Ousmane Sembene. Distribution has always been a major problem - in Africa itself as well as internationally. However, problems in access do not diminish the quality of the art. Many African nations should be more proud of their cultural heritage - their traditional and their modern artists add value to their home countries, even when the government is not supporting them. I hope that we will see more national cultural policies supporting artists like Burkina Faso does with the FESPACO Festival.
Wigbert Boell, New York, USA

I think the only government that is commendable in its quest to promote African arts is South Africa. Films like 'Yesterday' show us just how good African films can be. The Nigerian movie industry is doing remarkably well and is very popular all over Africa and even in the UK, but what concerns me is that the movies are technically still very basic. We have some great actors in this industry: may be governments can support them by providing a film-making institute where experts can provide technical training to newcomers.
Abdulqadir Abdulhameed, Lagos, Nigeria

The arts don't seem to be a very developed sector in Uganda with the exception of the music industry. Music seems to be doing well but not the literary arts. Our film industry is suffering and can't compete at all. Since the great Okot p' Bitek, Uganda hasn't hit the jackpot in the arts. The government considers arts to be rather insignificant. At government level, the arts are considered rather insignificant! The gallant performers will have to live with their problems for a long time. Before I wind up, I would like to salute the Nigerian movie industry. It's been a long wait and now Africans can finally watch movies about their lives. Long live Nollywood!
Tobias Oker, Kampala, Uganda

It is a pity that Africa, especially Nigeria, does not value homemade art. This is largely due to westernisation, and artists are often more popular if their lyrics are westernised. The same goes for our national dress, as a lot of us are now ashamed of wearing it.
Badmus Abdulwaheed, Leuven, Belgium

The arts in Nigeria, is underfunded and underdeveloped. The success of the movie industry in Nigeria lies on the private sector.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

The Nigerian government is more focused on oil than the arts. The arts in Nigeria, is underfunded and underdeveloped. The success of the movie industry in Nigeria lies on the private sector. Nigerian movies are making headlines all over Africa and beyond. I watch all the Nigerian movies as soon as they are released. They are very interesting and portray what goes on in society. Apart from government not doing enough in promoting the arts, another big problem is piracy. The movies and songs are pirated within and outside the country without any prosecution. People like Fela Kuti, Sunny Ade, Osita Osadebe, Chinua Achebe, Professor Wole Soyinka, Liz Benson, Kanayo O. Kanayo - to mention but a few - have made Nigeria proud on the international scene.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

Liberia takes the concept of "starving artist" to another level. Art is hardly ever considered a worthy livelihood. Younger generations are discouraged from becoming true connoisseurs of our rich African artistry. Pre-civil war governments rarely provided subsidies or funding for art projects. The concept of Arts is currently and quite unfortunately non-existent.
Korto Priscilla Sherman, Liberian in US

I watch Nigerian movies and enjoy reading novels by Nigerian/African authors. Our music is very vibrant and dancy.
Ada




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