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Central Africa faces challenges of cultural integration

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Departing from Pointe-Noire in Congo-Brazzaville, this convoy of Central African artists is on its way to Libreville.

They are beneficiaries of the RAAC grant, or Route de l'artiste en Afrique centrale in French.

"We're going to Libreville for a festival, the FITHEGA festival with Espace Yaro. We're taking advantage of the RAAC project. So we're traveling by car. Some of them left Kinshasa for Pointe-Noire, came to play and then went on to play in Dolisie. There, they preceded us to Gabon," said Arnaud Dimitri Makaya, actor.

In the Gabonese capital, bliss is on a par with the shows, as here at the Institute Français du Gabon.

Caravans like this one are essentially about the free circulation of Central African artists. And this is the very essence of the RAAC project launched last year. 

"It's the very salvation of the cultural sector in Central Africa. We didn't have roads. Now we have roads. That's why we at Espace Yaro created the RAAC project, the Route de l'artiste en Afrique centrale, which maps out and lists the cultural players and the road circuit that enables artists to get around. In so little time and with so few resources, we've had so many groups, so many artists on one event," shared Pierre Claver Mabiala, RAAC project coordinator.

But on the RAAC, there are many pitfalls capable of compromising the much-desired sub-regional cultural integration.

"Making the journey was a bit of a hassle for us from the DRC. As we're not CEMAC members, there were a lot of complications with our DRC passports," said Shella Nzutisa, Artistic Director from the DRC.

Hence, this plea to the States of the sub-region.

"If it is necessary to facilitate artists' access to other territories, governments should simply try to work towards making checkpoints freer for artists," added Clémence Patricia Beyite, a Cameroonian dancer.

This would bring back the days of Africa, when storytellers and minstrels could circulate freely without administrative constraints or cultural barriers.

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