The Mondriaan Foundation is committed to strengthening the international position of contemporary visual arts and design from the Netherlands, and we accomplish this by offering financial support to organizations in over 50 countries. International cooperation and exchange are a priority. Applications from African cultural organisations are fewer than from organisations in other parts of the world. We looked into the reasons for this limited number of applications at a two-day expert meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, where key players from the African visual arts field were invited.
The issues raised and suggestions made by the participants related to four areas:
(1) extending knowledge: the international policy of the Mondriaan Foundation, and other funding agencies as f.e. Pro Helvetia, is based on the promotion of art and design from their own country. Potential applicants are not always familiar with the art scene from the funding agency’s home country. To improve the knowledge on the Dutch and African cultural infrastructure, it is advisable to map the visual arts scene in the Netherlands and the different African countries.
(2) given the specific situation in several African countries, where there is virtually no public or private support for visual arts, conditions concerning local financial support can often not be met.
(3) communication is a key element of successful funding strategies in African countries, both in terms of external communication and informal exchange.
(4) capacity-building: the participants stressed the importance of organizing capacity-building workshops focusing on how to set up successful international exchange projects, including international funding.
The Mondriaan Foundation has taken these recommendations seriously. At this moment, we are building a website with a digital mapping of the Netherlands and a multi-language website for African applicants with a clear overview of funding possibilities. We also sent the report to our international colleagues in Europe and are in contact with them about joint communication. Furthermore, we are looking into adapting the different ways to support projects in Africa. Existing instruments that are used by the Mondriaan Foundation to enhance knowledge and stimulate exchange are the Arts Collaboratory program (by Hivos, the DOEN Foundation and the Mondriaan Foundation), international visitors program and yearly orientation trips.