A number of freedom of expression and artists support groups have come together to set up ”Amani: Africa Creative Defence Network” to defend artists and artistic freedom in Africa and to counter the risk of threats, harassment, arrest, imprisonment, torture and even death by authoritarian regimes in Africa.
“Amani” means “peace” in Kiswahili, “strength” in Lhukonzo, and “hope” in Arabic. The Amani network aims to ensure that creatives in distress in Africa have a large and coordinated safety net to turn to when they face risks.
The coalition aims to provide rapid responses to creatives at risk in Africa, coordinate adequate support when artists and cultural professionals in Africa face danger because of their work, and support regional safe havens in Africa.
The organisations which came together and collaborated with the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) of PEN America, in response to the particular impact of the threats in Africa, include Africa Human Rights Network (AHRN), Alert-Art-Afrik and Arterial Network.
Others are Safe Havens – the Malmö Meetings, Freemuse, Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART), The Museum of Movements, PEN Uganda and Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN).
The regional network which embraces and protects the creative efforts of artists is made up of will ensure will provide a secure communication channel that will allow numerous organizations in Africa to effectively monitor, share information, and collaborate on cases.
The initiative was first conceived after the majority of the partners met at the 6th annual Safe Havens conference, a gathering of the global arts rights justice sector held in Cape Town in December 2019, where they discussed the need for a collaborative protection mechanism to support artists across the region.
As a regional network of mostly local organizations, Amani is well-positioned to assist artists at risk, identify new resources at the local level, strengthen existing ones, and monitor violations of artistic freedom, particularly authoritarian regimes which now exploit ‘’emergency powers’’ during the COVID-19 pandemic to silence dissent and artistic expression and creativity.
Though many organizations operate nationally, regionally, and internationally with mandates focused on artistic freedom and protecting artists at risk in Africa, a lack of clear communication between those organisations often causes assistance work to be duplicated and precludes artists from receiving adequate support in time.
Amani also uses the opportunity to appeal to any artist at risk in Africa, to reach out to the network via this link.