New Delhi: The
cultural cooperation between India and Africa is moving beyond
traditional exchanges to focus on education and capacity building
initiatives which can become "a part of the national idiom", says
Suresh Goel, director general of the Indian Council for Cultural
The ICCR, which functions under India's external affairs ministry,
has taken the lead in cultural cooperation between India and
Africa with a series of exchange programmes since 2011, when
representatives of Indian and African countries met in Addis Ababa
May 20-25 for the second India-Africa summit.
"Our primary aim was to promote understanding between cultures
through traditional exchanges, but we find that to develop
sustained understanding in future, we need to build studies and
academic collaborations with Africa," Goel told IANS in an
He said that till April 2012, 516 scholarships were given to
"But this year, we have increased the number of scholarships to
900. The subjects of study include every discipline in science,
humanities and the arts," Goel said.
He said "chairs have been set up to promote Indian studies in
Africa in countries like Mauritius, Nigeria and South Africa,
which has a chair of political studies sponsored by India".
"Similarly, we support a Nelson Mandela chair in India," Goel
"We are trying to deepen the understanding between India and
Africa so that it becomes a part of the national idiom. Education
exchanges help put such understanding on the people's psyche. The
cooperation should not remain a visual experience; it should be
discussed and taught in universities and public forums."
Goel said "the broad focus of India's cultural and diplomatic ties
with Africa is an ideological kinship, people-to-people contacts
and recognition of each other's needs".
"This kinship is rooted in the shared history dating back to
pre-history, early anthropological history, colonial history and
the legacy of de-colonisation. History says the roots of the
friendship are nearly two billion years old with the drift of the
continental landmass. There is evidence of trade-related travel
from India to southern and eastern Africa," Goel said.
The Gandhian legacy of South Africa, home to the young Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who began his civil disobedience movement in
Pretoria in the late 19th century, is another broad cultural
linkage in the Indian and African psyche.
The first India-Africa Forum Summit, which was held April 4-8,
2008, in New Delhi is the basis of the resurgent bilateral ties
between India and Africa under their south-south cooperation.
Culture is the cement of the bilateral ties between African
nations and India in the contemporary times, Goel said.
"Our collaboration in performance arts has increased tremendously
in the last two years. This year, in November, African musicians
will take part in the World Percussion Festival in the national
capital and a group from South Africa has been invited to perform
Krishna Leela," Goelsaid.
Explaining the increased cooperation in numbers, Goel said between
April 2010 and March 2011, 16 Indian troupes performed in Africa.
"In comparison, between April 1, 2011, and March 31, 2012, 28
troupes from Africa performed in India. In addition, at the
India-Africa Festival in Africa last May, India supported groups
from nine African countries to perform with Indian artists. Later,
we supported the Grammy winning African musician, Toumani Diabate,
a Kora player from Mali," Goel said.
On June 18-19, six African countries brought their ethnic
performance traditions to India in a two-day Africa Festival
sponsored by the ICCR.
Goel said the ICCR has been lending its name and support to
several private initiatives in involving Africa in the arts and
handicrafts sectors as well.
"The ICCR cultural cells in cities like Cairo, Dar-es-Salam,
Phoenix (Mauritius) and Lagos (which will be operational soon)
have been pushing the soft power of Indian culture in Africa. The
large population of Indian origin in Africa helps consolidate
cultural understanding and exchanges," Goel said.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)