African artists who campaign against racist violence

A group of West African artists has taken over social media to support the “Black Lives Matter” movement from the mainland. Through the hashtag #AfricaforBlackLives, they are trying to mobilize African civil society further.

Closed point, determined gaze, the Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara poses in front of a sign marked #AfricaforBlackLives. She posted this photo on June 8 on her Instagram account when the named collective called. This collective launched a campaign in early June to gather African support online for the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

Following the open letter from a hundred writers from the continent, it is the turn of cultural figures and, above all, French-speaking influencers to restart anti-racist mobilization on social networks, and the health crisis has severely limited participation in demonstrations.

“It’s not just an American movement. We’ve seen it with mass demonstrations in Europe,” explains France 24 Antoine Tempé, a French-American photographer based in Dakar and co-founder of the collective #AfricaforBlackLives. “We want to show that Africa is not quiet.”

“At present no official vote was raised”

In Africa, the protests surrounding George Floyd’s death and racial violence have appeared especially in English-speaking countries such as South Africa, Kenya and Ghana.

Antoine Tempé and Nathalie Vairac, a Guadeloupe comedian and Indian origin, also based in Dakar, were surprised by the late reaction in West Africa.

“There was a desire to protest, but because of the corona virus they were not allowed,” points out Antoine Tempé. “At that time, no official vote was raised to condemn the crime committed against George Floyd,” added Wise Bayano, a Senegalese “artist” and representative of urban cultures. On June 3, #AfricaforBlackLives published a first series of images.

“There will never be enough small peace movements”

The spread of collective (hashtag) in social networks like #AfricaforBlackLives is not without eliciting the power of online events in times of pandemic like #BlackOutTuesday. 28 million people around the world had posted a black square on Instagram after Georges Floyd’s death.

“We have noted the importance of networking,” says photographer Antoine Tempé. The movement of African artists plays on a small scale, with less than a hundred publicationson Instagram. Their approach risks drowning in the mass of virtual events. “We don’t see a hashtag as another product,” replies Nathalie Vairac. “Because there will never be enough small peace movements or small solidarities.”

The collective now wants to take over the streets and organize collections around graffiti and urban art, in a broader sense.

“We want to create a trade union movement to show solidarity with every person who is subjected to violence, starting with the brutality of our continent,” reads a press release from the Senegalese collective.

“The George Floyd case was the last straw that broke the record. It urges us to act against all violence and human rights violations throughout West Africa,” concludes the co-founder of #AfricaforBlackLives.