Tuesday, 19 February 2013


Angelique Kidjo
Declaring that “if you want peace, you have to make peace”, the renowned African singer and activist Angélique Kidjo launched an evening of solidarity with Mali on Monday night in Paris that attracted hundreds of supporters of the West African nation.

The event was aimed at raising awareness of the need to restore and safeguard Mali’s centuries-old culture (see article below), following the destruction of World Heritage sites in the city of Timbuktu and elsewhere during a year of conflict.

“I’m here specially to support Mali’s cause and Malian culture … and also the culture and music of the wider African continent,” said the Benin-born star.

She said she was particularly concerned about the plight of girls and “all the women who suffer from violence during conflicts", with their violation seen as a weapon of war.

Kidjo, who also works as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, flew to Paris from New York to act as host for the evening of solidarity, and she welcomed other musicians to the stage for a poignant series of performances and speeches.

Rokia Traoré
Accompanied only by her guitar, French-based Malian singer Rokia Traoré delivered a haunting song that evoked aspects of the Sahara, while lute-player and vocalist Pedro Kouyaté expressed the joyous energy of African music in his performance. A troupe of drummers and dancers also pounded out a message of hope and resilience.

Notably absent were Malian icon Salif Keita and the husband and wife duo Amadou & Mariam, who apparently had previous, long-standing engagements. But echoes of their music drifted through the concert hall.

The “solidarity evening” capped a day in which government officials and international experts at Paris-based UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency, adopted an Action Plan for the “Rehabilitation of Cultural Heritage and the Safeguarding of Ancient Manuscripts” in the country.

Pedro Kouyaté and band
Carrying out the plan will cost between 10 and 11 million dollars, officials said. It will include the digitization of Mali's priceless manuscripts and the training of professionals in culture conservation.

UNESCO has set up a special fund for donations by private and public sponsors and intends to “send a mission on the ground to make a full assessment" as soon as the situation permits.