The history and future of art, culture and heritage in Africa was the centre of focus for African delegates attending the International Conference on African Cultures (ICAC) in Harare.

With the world now turned into a global village, there is consensus on the need to build an African heritage that fits in the future.

African countries converged to interrogate the future of art institutions in the face of the current socio-economic challenges and civilisation.

Presenting a paper titled: ‘The Past in Pursuit of Progress,’ British Museum’s Head of Africa Curator, John Giblin said Africa must build a robust heritage that also engages with the world.

National Gallery of Zimbabwe Executive Director, Mrs Doreen Sibanda noted that the conference has brought together African visual artists and curators to interrogate the role of heritage in formulating identity, understanding the historical dimensions of art in Africa and the development of contemporary art, among other topics.

The conference which marks ICAC’s 60th anniversary is running under the theme: ‘Mapping the Future,’ and comes at a time when arts institutions around the world are in need of the attention of local authorities, corporations and their governments.

An exhibition programme which ran alongside the conference showcased distinguished works of visual artists, both living and departed from all over the continent.

The inaugural ICAC took place at the then National Gallery of Rhodesia in 1962.

Meanwhile, various recommendations have been proffered to ensure that African culture is preserved and safeguarded.

Participants at the ICAC said there is need to monitor cultural trends and national cultural policies in the region, enhancing integration in human development strategies through advocacy, information technology, research, capacity building, networking, coordination and cooperation at the regional and international levels.

Kenyan Visual Arts Curator, Jimmy Ogonga noted that members should up their game by ensuring conference proceedings are published and sectoral policy studies are produced on DVDs, while websites and developed documentation centres on the projections of cultural polices are maintained.

South African Curator of Contemporary Art, Ernestine White-Mifetu said there is need to provide regional network of countries as focal points with guidelines as well as to extend, coordinate regional dynamic cultural summits and address some of the challenges artists, curators and creators of art works face.

National Gallery of Zimbabwe Curator, Raphael Chikukwa noted that governments’ support is critical, adding that ICAC members should participate in meetings and programmes that emphasise the crucial role of culture so as to bring in the promotion of creative economy, creative industry and cultural markets initiatives.

Some of the recommendations follow the ones that were undertaken at the inter-governmental conference on cultural policies for development which was held in 1998 in Stockholm in Sweden.