Africa Grantmakers Blog

promoting increased & more effective funding in Africa

Art & Social Change  

"Most people who think about art in Africa think about so-called "traditional art," but they overlook the opportunity to see contemporary art – what the artists are telling us now.” -Dr. Jones



Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA) provides services and a community for visual artists. VANSA is supported by Mondriaan Foundation. View VANSA's Art Map South Africa


MusicWorks in South Africa unlocks potential for youth in marginalized neighborhoods using music therapy and is supported by the Stephen Lewis Foundation.


International Council of African Museums safeguards, conserves and shares African heritage resources. An early funding partner was the J. Paul Getty Trust

Docubox-East African Documentary Film Fund fosters documentary filmmaking in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and is funded by the Ford Foundation initiative to advance public service media in East Africa. 


Theatre for A Change uses interactive theatre to make a difference in the lives of young people in Malawi and Ghana. Christian Aid supports their work in teacher training.


Please note: AGAG does not make grants or assist with fundraising. Events are open to funders and some are restricted to AGAG members.


Art, Philanthropy and Africa

Last month AGAG held its 2014 Conference on "Funding in Africa: Challenges and Oportunities" in New York as part of our efforts to deepen learning and galvanize funding in support of African communities.

Speakers Marcia Thomas, Dr. Omi Osun Joni Jones and Sean Barlow in the opening session on  “Art, Philanthropy and Africa” each spoke of the power of arts as an engine and mirror of social and political trends. They urged funders to view arts as an opportunity for deeper impact and addressing challenges. Read speaker bios here and learn about the AGAG 2014 Conference.

"When Reason Eluded We III" by Jelili Atiku, Lagos, Nigeria, Old Naira and Ink on Paper, 45cm x 64cm, 2000 highlighted in USA for Africa's 'Art as Action' series.

Artist as Activist

United Support of Artists (USA) for Africa embodies the nexus of art, philanthropy and Africa. It was established almost 30 years ago with revenue from the song “We Are the World.” Using music to draw attention to the needs of Africa and Africans. It has raised $75 million to fight poverty.

Executive Director Marcia Thomas described its ongoing legacy and new initiative,“ Pay It Forward – Art Has Power ” that leverages the power and role of the arts in African society.

Learn more about USA for Africa at


Contemporary Art 

Artist and scholar Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones  is the author of a four-part essay series “Art Has Power” commissioned by USA for Africa.

Using stunning examples of contemporary African arts, Jones shared highlights from the series’ first installment, “Art as Action.”

She pointed out that the skills of imagination, collaboration and improvisation used by artists are necessary ingredients for social change.  Funders should consider a world where artists are supported to respond to key development issues facing African communities.

Dr Jones is Associate Professor of Theatre, Dance and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. Read the series’ first essay, “Art as Action.”












African Music

Music is a good source in understanding current trends in Africa and the concerns of ordinary people. 

Using music from Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Morocco, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe, Mali, Congo, Ghana, Angola, South Africa, and Nigeria, Sean Barlow demonstrated how music reflects social and political change. 

African music is a subject Barlow knows well. He is the creator and Executive Producer of the award-winning public radio series Afropop Worldwide, the first nationally syndicated media showcase in the U.S. for contemporary music of Africa and the Diaspora.

Barlow cited examples of musical activism ranging from Fela’s songs challenging corruption in Nigeria to Angolan transsexual music star Titica who is breaking sexuality and gender barriers.

He also pointed out the informal and formal charitable work of many African artists such as Angelica Kudjoe. He described the arts as a field ripe with opportunities for venture capital philanthropy to support art institutions with social justice agendas.

In addition to promoting current artists, the Afropop website has a rich archive of African music. Learn more.

The panel encouraged funders working in other sectors to “come along side” of artists. They cited opportunities such as using community arts centers to re-grant funds to address compelling needs and supporting documentary filmmakers to bring awareness to critical social issues.  By rethinking funding strategies and considering the human spirit rather than just organizational infrastructures, funders can support artists with track records of working for social justice.  

   Copyright 2014 Africa Grantmakers' Affinity Group, a project of the Tides Center