Bridging differences and inequalities through culture: Utopia or reality?

Documentary screening – Finding Harmony, an Afro-European music experiment

Large Debate
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
10:45 to 12:00

This Large Lab Debate starts with a 15-minute documentary on an unprecedented experiment organised by the EU Delegation to the African Union: MAISHA, an Afro-European Music Residency, organised in April/May 2019 in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia. 12 artists from both continents discovered themselves personally and musically, and, after 15 days of work, recorded in a studio and performed their work in Ethiopia’s National Theatre. The documentary is screened for the first time at the EDDs. A longer version is being developed for Film Festivals.

Following the documentary, the debate will revolve around the following questions:

  • How might artists document or make visible forms of inequality? What impact might their work have in shaping political and economic debates in these areas?
  • How can policy-makers benefit from the works of artists that highlight inequalities?
  • How might artists and institutions work with communities and activists to reduce inequalities?

Key points

  • The successful MAISHA project united 12 musicians from both the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) to co-create musical works.
  • The experiment demonstrated the importance of music to bring different cultures together.
  • However, it also highlighted the lack of opportunities for African musicians
  • There is a therefore a need for more investment in the cultural and creative sectors, especially in the AU.
  • This makes good business sense, as there is a direct link between culture and job creation.


This session screened a short documentary on a two-week music residency in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia called MAISHA, which means ‘life’ in Swahili. The project united 12 musicians from both the AU and EU to co-create music. It culminated in a live performance in the Ethiopian National Theatre, which was itself partly refurbished under the project. The exchange was a great success in that it brought diverse groups of people together, who despite the short time frame and language barriers, produced impactful and beautiful music. The experience emphasized dialogue between cultures, freedom of expression and the importance of artist mobility. The project also highlighted the inequalities between Africa and European musicians. There is a distinct lack of opportunity for artists in Africa. It is difficult to source information on art in general and even harder to find out about funding opportunities. Not many women are involved in the creative sector due to the fact that music and art are not considered proper professions. Things are slowly evolving but more work is needed to change attitudes. The importance of setting up cultural networks in the AU was also emphasised. There are many such networks in Europe. A good example is Music Moves Europe, which promotes music across the continent. There should be a similar network set up between the EU and AU. This would give unprecedented international opportunities to artists. Overall, culture and creation must be allowed to flourish. This means that relevant authorities, including the European Commission, should commit funds to building the necessary infrastructure, ensure access to funds and credit, and encourage artist mobility. This makes good economic sense as there is a direct link between culture and job creation. In Europe. for example, the cultural and creative industries make an enormous contribution to the European Union’s GDP – this could be replicated in the AU. But the mindset needs to change in Africa. Many governments on the continent do not fully understand or appreciate music and culture and fail to realise the positive impact it can have on the economy. But this will hopefully change through effective lobbying from the creative sector. The EU must also commit more funds to culture. It has taken various steps such as setting up the MAISHA project but more initiatives are needed.


Many African artists cannot travel abroad due to visa issues. The EU is looking into this and may in the future issue special visas to both artists and scientists.

Organised by


Jack Parrock
Samuel Yirga Mitiku
Hatoumata Magassa
Executive Manager
AFD For Inclusive & Digital Business in Africa
Stefano Manservisi
European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
Bernard de Launoit
Executive President
Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel
Guido Gryseels
Director General
Royal Museum for Central Africa