Dear STAC supporters
We would like to thank those of you who attended the Africa Centre Rising meeting last Thursday, January 26th. We had 124 people register to attend the meeting and, with many more asking to attend on the day, the SOAS lecture theatre was full to capacity. We are truly grateful to you for making the time to be there and for your overwhelming support on the day.
Key outcomes were that it was unanimously agreed by all present that there should be:
(i) a root and branch reform of the governance
(ii) a clear and specific business plan that seriously considers alternatives to leaving the building
(iii) a clearly articulated vision for programming
(iv) a moratorium on the sale during this time
Trustee Kaye Whiteman confirmed he would take back to the rest of the trustees the request for a moratorium.
For general context for the meeting for those that were unable to make it, at the meeting start, STAC advised all present that the Adjaye/Ibrahim proposal had been withdrawn during the week of 8 January 2012. Dele Fatunla read out an email from Hadeel Ibrahim detailing the reasons for the withdrawal: submitted 21 weeks previously to a 6-week deadline and with no decision yet taken, the proposal team believed that consideration of the project was a
“disingenuous process to conclude that our proposal was not good enough. We were no longer willing to provide them with political cover for the inevitable sale. I hope you understand our position and I would like to re-emphasise the huge amount of work done by the project team that meant this decision was taken very reluctantly”.
Dele Fatunla then read out the email he had received on 26 January from the director of the management agency of the Africa Centre, Graeme Jennings:
“… the Trustees have considered all options and the only one that remains viable is the offer to buy a lease on 38 King Street from CapCo. The next steps are to secure another suitable location and finalise the business plan for the future. Both of these are being pursued and hopefully there will be some exciting announcements soon.…. I would appreciate it if you could circulate this e mail to your colleagues”
The meeting began with a welcome from the Chair, Onyekachi Wambu. Nigel Watt, Africa Centre Director (1984-1991) spoke about the Centre’s first director, Margaret Feeney (1964-1978) who passed away at the beginning of 2012. A minute’s silence was held in respectful remembrance.
Panellists included good governance expert Eric Galvin, artist Sokari Douglas Camp; Kaye Whiteman (Africa Centre Trustee); Dele Fatunla (STAC); Music Promoter Peter Adjaye; Chipo Chung (STAC); Dr Knox Chitiyo (Africa Fellow, Chatham House) and Joseph Adesunloye (Screening Africa).
During the first panel discussion, How can the Community Share in the Governance of the Africa Centre?, key issues outlined by Eric Galvin with respect to governance included ethics, accountability, vision, affinity, integrity, communication, transparency, respect and skills. Dele Fatunla presented a paper “Minimum Requirements for Reforming the Africa Centre’s Governing Structure and Constitution for the 21st Century”. Africa Centre Trustee representative, Kaye Whiteman confirmed that negotiations with CapCo are continuing and expressed regret over the withdrawal of the Adjaye/Ibrahim Proposal. He stressed that the trustees now wish to engage constructively with STAC and the community to work towards a shared vision and mutual end purpose of saving the Africa Centre for the future.
The Second Panel, Vision and the Way Forward focused on the importance of programming. Recognition was given to the importance of location, the prime position the Centre has at 38 King Street, the ‘soul’ in the building that does, as Archbishop Tutu has put it, “clutched at our hearts in a special way” and holds our ancestors’ history. Chipo Chung and Peter Adjaye emphasised the sound social capital that is the building itself, the Ibrahim/Adjaye proposal and the unprecedented value that David Adjaye‘s (the architect leading the team behind Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington) redesign would bring to the building.
Bonnie Greer made the closing remarks, outlining possible legal and moral alternative scenarios
STAC would like to formally thank Kaye Whiteman for attending and representing the trustees at this meeting and for the positive and constructive engagement by all throughout. We also thank Sheila Ruiz for organising the room at SOAS and enabling this meeting to take place. Enormous thanks also to contemporary African acoustic jazz singer-songwriter, Bumi Thomas, whose poignant between panels performance was so full of soul, a tangible reminder of the arts and culture a thriving Africa Centre should nurture and represent.
We will, of course, get back to you as soon as we hear back from the trustees and have attached , for your information, a copy of STAC’s paper on the Africa Centre and Governance for the 21st Century to the emails to the STAC mailing list and will be publishing it shortly.
Also attached, for your information, are the results released at the end of last week by Portland Communication of their survey which reveals How Africa Tweets.