PRESS RELEASE No. 1 / 2012
22 September 2012
Caravan of Artists for Peace and National Unity
As we approach the 13th edition of the Festival au Desert, Essakane Timbuktu we look back to our great nomadic traditions!
In 2013, the Festival au Desert will be held as an exceptional Caravan of Artists for Peace and National Unity. Giving concerts all along the way, artists will depart from Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, Niger and meet in Burkina Faso for the 13th annual, three day Festival au Desert.
This Caravan of the Sahel is part of a global program by Festival friends of several events to be known as the Festival in Exile offering a home to the Festival au Desert during 2013.
Since the beginning of 2012, the security situation in northern Mali 2012 has resulted in the occupation of the region by separatist movements and especially by armed Islamists. This has caused a human tragedy. These regional occupiers advocate extremist Islam and the establishment of a "Sharia" hostile to any festival event.
It started with the sacking of the site of the Festival au Desert at Timbuktu (the entrance gate, the water systems, etc.) and the looting of the organization’s stored materials (generators, electrical equipment, etc). More serious still was the destruction of the great symbols of our culture and our beliefs (the monuments and mausoleums of the City of Timbuktu), quickly crushing all that appealed to the promotion of culture and tourism.
It is an attack on our collective memory, on all that unites the many ethnic groups of Timbuktu.
The organization of a festival is therefore impossible in this region at this time and this despite our efforts and our determination displayed for years to resist the rise of extremism in the area of the Sahel.
But, we do not want to nor can we allow ourselves to become resigned because safeguarding the values of the Festival, i.e. those of peace and tolerance, now more than ever has become an absolute emergency. This is the message we want to pass among ourselves first and then to others throughout the rest of the world who share with us the same values.
The brute sound of weapons and the cries of intolerance are not able to silence the singing of the griots or the sound of the Imzad (violin) and the Tinde (drum).
The Festival in the Desert must survive all this, even as a nomad like those who founded it, until it can again settle somewhere.
The Caravan of Artists for Peace and National Unity will start from Bamako on 7 February 2013 heading to the town of Kobeni in Mauritania, 15 km from the Malian border on the international road connecting Nouakchott to Bamako through Nioro du Sahel. There the artists will meet for the first Concerts of Peace from 8 to 9 February in partnership with the Al Hawa Cultural Association of Mauritania.
Festival friends, The Festival on the Niger in Ségou and The Festival of Mali in Bamako, will each devote a special night to the Caravan of the Festival au Desert in their next editions, respectively on 14 February in Ségou and on 16 February in Bamako.
At the same time, a second Caravan of Artists for Peace and National Unity will leave from Tamanrasset in Algeria and travel to Niamey, Niger before continuing on to Burkina-Faso.
The two caravans will meet in Oursi, Burkina-Faso, 350 km northeast of Ouagadougou. There, the Festival in the Desert will be held February 20 to 22, 2013. The Oursi site was chosen for its physical (a set of sand dunes) and cultural (Songhai, Tuareg and Fulani communities) similarities with Timbuktu.
After the passage in Burkina Faso, the Caravan will return to Mali to finish its journey at the Festival International of Sélingué which will be held from 1 to March 03, 2013.
The Caravan will be composed primarily of Malian artists from the North and South, those artists from the countries the Caravan crosses, and also other international artists who will show their solidarity.
Concerts, artistic creations, lectures, testimonies, exhibitions, projections and other events will be organized at each Caravan stop.
The Caravan of Artists for Peace and National Unity is planned with travel agencies who will organize tours that follow the caravan on all or a few of its stops. This will be, thanks to the support of all our sponsors and partners, a unique event of its kind where Western and African tourists will mingle with people, some now refugees, whom they may be able to help, to better understand, and above all to share together in moments of joy and communion.
Under this strong banner of a Caravan of Artists for Peace and National Unity, the Festival in the Desert wants to express its non-violent but active resistance and also its solidarity with populations in distress, the refugees within Mali and in its neighboring friendly countries.
Executive Director, Festival au Desert
article submitted by:Christopher Nolan, Festival au Desert