Sahel Artists Find Peace Amid Conflict


By Jemal Oumar

In the times of turbulence and instability, a group of Mauritanian and Malian artists turned to music to reinforce a message of peace and unity.

A Nouakchott soiree held on February 16th sought to “express rejection of violence and denunciation of terrorism”, said Malian Women’s Association in Mauritania head Hanata Mint Sidaty.

“The soiree was marked by cultural diversity through the participation of artists from northern and southern Mali, along with their Mauritanian counterparts,” added Mint Sidaty, whose organisation held the event.

Participants included not only artists but ambassadors from Sahel countries and the West African region.

Arts reporter Babacar Baye Ndiaye commented: “This artistic carnival succeeded in blending different genres of arts and cultures, as Malian and Mauritania artists sang together for unity of culture and for diversity in Mauritania and Mali, bringing together the culture of the Touareg and other cultural components of the Malian and Mauritanian peoples.”

“Art was able to reinforce old ties based on brotherhood and acceptance of the ‘other’ in Mali and Mauritania,” he added.

“As an association, we sought to reinforce the call for a culture of peace and tolerance through art, because it appeals to all races, cultures and minds,” Mint Sidaty said. “The event also highlights the need for artists’ message to reach everyone and for artists to play their role in society.”

Malian and Mauritanian artists are “required to play a greater role in the circumstances where the Sahel area is experiencing much insecurity and armed conflicts to bring cultures together”, she said.

“We ought to express our support for peace, regardless of our diverse cultures and social backgrounds. That explains the participation of artists in this arts gala, representing the various components of the two peoples, the Malian and the Mauritanian,” Mint Sidaty concluded.
Thialé Arby, an artist of Touareg origin from northern Mali, described the event as an opportunity to express “rejection of war and armed conflict and to show commitment to the unity of the Malian people, where different races and ethnicities should live in harmony”.

“Coming from Mali to Mauritania only proves that peace is the link between the two countries. It is also a call for all nations to cling to peace, stability and construction,” he told Magharebia.

Artists are best positioned to convey a message of peace due their “ability to address the largest number possible of ordinary people and governments”, according to Arby.

They can “fight terrorism through organising such events that denounce violence and terrorism, and singing lyrics that condemn extremism,” he added. “In that case, terrorists themselves can come to grips with the intended message.”

For her part, Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali felt that the role of an artist was to sing for “peace, love and renouncing violence and extremism” in such circumstances.

“Personally, I was deprived of participating in several international festivals because of security concerns and extremism-related hazards,” she said. “I will be presenting a song that focuses on the renunciation of terrorism and extremism, because a true Muslim in my opinion is the one who would never harm people.”

“I wonder why there is so much violence, conflict and division. Let us work together for the unity of all races and so we can all live in peace,” Mint Seymali concluded.


The Magharebia web site is sponsored by the United States Africa Command, the military command responsible for supporting and enhancing US efforts to promote stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

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