Human Rights, Development, and Democracy in Africa: What Role for the Arts?

This essay written by Mike van Graan, the Executive Director of the African Arts Institute (AFAI) based in Cape Town, is the first of a mini-series we hope to publish on the role of arts in democracy, protest, and human rights movements in Africa. It aims to explore how arts are used to advance freedom of expression and representation throughout the region, and highlight these important stories of pro-democracy arts activism – Eds.
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Popular Mobilization and the New Politics of Resource Sovereignty in Tanzania

In 1972, a resident of Tanzania’s impoverished southeastern region of Mtwara penned an angry missive to the editor of a national newspaper. “In Tanzania, there are two groups of people,” he began. “Those in northern and central regions are the ones who enjoy the country’s fruits of independence and those in southern regions are left behind without any progress.” He cited the government’s geographically lopsided investment in infrastructure and industry as evidence of this inequality, and concluded by posing a poignant question that cut to the heart of the young East African country’s aspirations of national unity: “Why are the southern people ignored?”
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