As one of our key pillars of activity, education is embedded in the mission of The Africa Centre and is at the heart of all our programming. This means that everything we do must have a basic output of enriching and uplifting all who engage with us. This is evident throughout our 60-year history. We were at the heart of the Black supplementary school system in the 1970s. We were the intellectual hub for discourse on Black History and its place in the UK school curriculum. African languages and arts and cultural education have always been a key part of what we do. We have also collaborated with educational institutions, sponsored studies, and facilitated research, as well as being the subject of Ph.D. studies. 

It is therefore apt that by a combination of serendipity and design, the focus of my activity over the past month has been on various aspects of education. 

Following our previous blog where we committed to being more engaged in the causes of knife crime, I was invited to attend a conference on Adultification bias (a form of racial prejudice where children of minoritised groups are treated as being more mature than they are). The conference concluded that there is an urgent need not just to decolonise curriculum but also children’s minds, engage with building an antiracist classroom, develop cultural competence in staff, and adopt a more child-centered approach to accountability. It was stressed that culture plays a powerful role in developing children’s sense of identity as a source of empowerment to combat the challenges of Adultification. 

We had the pleasure of a visit by the amazing and evergreen educationalist Professor Gus John. Professor John revealed that not only had he been at The Africa Centre at its opening in 1964 but had written the first policy paper on Black history in the curriculum from there in the 1970s! We look forward to working with him later in the year as part of our 60th-anniversary celebrations.  

It was also delightful to have been invited to contribute to a workshop on Responsive Engagement and Academic Leadership held in partnership with the University of Ghana and the University of Edinburgh in Accra. I was particularly pleased to have had the opportunity to stress the importance of universities developing more equal partnerships with cultural organisations, especially in their ongoing efforts to decolonise not just the curriculum but also the international funding infrastructure and in developing an Africa-centred approach to academic ethics. It was especially an honour for me that the chair of my panel was the legendary poet Prof Kofi Anyidoho. My trip to Accra coincided with Ghana’s 67th Independence Day celebrations. 

London Marathon Fundraising Campaign

You would have seen that we now have a taker for our London Marathon place this year - DJ MDKay will be pounding the route to raise money for our new Education programme. He’s doing the running, so we should do the supporting – please donate and share the link amongst your networks so we can smash this target! Thanks for your effort, MDKay!

Support The Campaign

We also recently announced that we will be working with various organisations that share our mission and are sympathetic to our vision, as a network of Affiliate Organisations. We are so proud that the first organisation with whom we have signed an MOU under this arrangement is the 5 Cowries Arts Education Initiative in Nigeria. 5 Cowries are working on a programme of art education across Northern Nigeria. Recent events in Kaduna show just how needed yet fraught such work is, and we are pleased to offer any support that we may be able to. 

It is apt that it was in this last month that a new UNESCO Framework for Culture and Arts Education was adopted by Culture and Education Ministers at the UNESCO World Conference on Culture and Arts Education that took place in Abu Dhabi. The unanimous adoption of the framework by 90 Ministers marks a historic commitment to advancing culture and arts education worldwide. 

I must mention the recent issue of the racist abuse of Britain’s first Black female MP, Diane Abbott. Ms Abbott has always been a very passionate advocate for children’s education, and she sponsored the seminal London Schools and the Black Child conferences for many years. We stand in solidarity with her.

On more positive news, we are proud that our new humble home has been recognised and shortlisted in the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) London Awards 2024. We eagerly await the outcome of the judges’ final deliberations. Once again, thanks to our wonderful architects Freehaus and interior designer Tola Ojuolape.

Finally, I would like to say a big thank you and good luck to a departing member of our team, Ms Haja Fanta. Haja has been running the fantastic Malangatana project over the past year. Her contract has now ended, and she is off to do more curatorial work across Africa. 

Our 60th-anniversary celebrations are now gathering momentum. We have had some amazing responses to our call for memories – please still get in touch if you would like to contribute yours. Next month, we hope to be announcing several interesting collaborations. 

Have a wonderful April!

Olu Alake

Cultural Highlight of the Month – Spoilt for choice, from meeting the legendary Mozambican musician Pedro Ben, attending the launch of Vanessa Walters’ new book The Lagos Wife (gets book of the month!) to the opening of Rele Gallery with amazing work of Peju Alatise (which is focusing on children’s rights). But having spent 5 days eating different cooks’ Jollof rice in Ghana, I am now far better placed to settle the Ghana v Nigeria Jollof Wars. Sorry, Chale! (Though I admit, your Kelewele is epic!)

History Made: Congratulations to Vaughan Gething who was recently elected as First Minister of Wales. In so doing, Vaughan became the first Black leader of any European nation in modern times. We wish him all the best in his service.