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Origins Objectives


CIOFF, international non-governmental organization, is founded in 1970 by Henri Coursaget (France). Then the organization extended regularly to new members, to new countries and enlarged its field of action to new activities.

In the 90s', the CIOFF members, divided in 71 National Sections, 4 Associate Members and 1 Corresponding Member covered the following geographical sectors:

  • Latin America
  • North America
  • Asia and Oceania
  • North Europe
  • South Europe
  • Central Europe
However, because of a lack of means, Africa remained for a long time the poor parent of the CIOFF action. Despite the collaborations led punctually and the joining of a few countries as associate members, we cannot really talk about an integration of this continent to the international net of the organization nor about significant representation.

In 1989, Henri Coursaget, president of CIOFF at that time, took part to the Meeting on Peace in Yamoussoukro (Ivory Coast) organized by UNESCO. This was a prelude to the CIOFF Council Meeting organized the same year in Abidjan. At this occasion, 7 African taking-part-countries set up the African Federation of Folk Arts, chaired by Alexise Gogoua, who became the first African Associate Member of CIOFF.

In 1990, Jean Roche (France) took part to the Meeting of Experts organized by UNESCO on the Preparation of an Action Plan for the Promotion of the Performing Arts in Africa, Yaoundé (Cameroon).

In 1997, CIOFF has been admitted as a NGO in formal consultative relations with UNESCO. Jean Roche is appointed Permanent Delegate of CIOFF to UNESCO. In 1998, Director general of UNESCO Federico Mayor signed a convention with the President of CIOFF Kari Bergholm. In this context, UNESCO gave to CIOFF a permanent representation in its offices in Paris and the required budget for the African CIOFF Project. The programme in Africa could really start. Jean Roche, President of the South European and African Sector, is in charge of the coordination of the Programme Africa CIOFF-UNESCO. Ariane Guaita is appointed to the post of assistant.

In a first time, the project was oriented in favour of the countries of West Africa and Central Africa. The first regional meeting for this area was organized in Bingerville in February 1999 (Ivory Coast) during the MASA. It was gathering the representatives of: Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Central Africa Republic, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Togo and Democratic Republic of Congo. This meeting was the first appointment of the countries from the area on place and enabled to launch officially the CIOFF net in Africa.

Moreover, on this occasion, the CIOFF, who is since 1975 a member of the International Music Council (IMC), organized, the first joint workshop on the "use of African music and dances as pedagogical tools by teachers". This workshop was organized with the support of UNESCO and the Rockefeller Foundation and gathered the participation of 30 countries. These countries were members of these both NGOs: CIOFF and IMC.

In April 1999, the National Central African Section, chaired by Béatrice Epaye, initiated the first CIOFF festival in Africa: the "Festival of Traditional Dances and Music from the Central African Republic". Its main theme "With our minorities, let's consolidate peace in our Sub-region" gathered all the ethnic groups of the country, which were at war at that time.

As soon as the year 2000 started, the second part of the project is initiated in favour of countries from the South African region.

In May 2003, a Regional Meeting for the countries of Austral Africa is organized by CIOFF in the framework of the SADC Festival in Pretoria (South Africa) with the support of the Regional Office of UNESCO in Maputo. The representatives of various cultural associations, some cultural governmental national and regional representations are gathered. Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe met at this occasion and signed a Declaration of Intend to form a regional CIOFF net for the countries from Austral Africa.

In April 2004, countries of the Indian Ocean area will be invited in Madagascar for the next regional meeting to make them sensitive to the CIOFF net.


Since its foundation, CIOFF has been working for the safeguarding and dissemination of traditional culture. Through its activities, CIOFF aims at the following main objectives:

  • Promote the intangible heritage, through forms of expression such as dance, music, games, rituals, customs and others arts.
  • Serve the objectives of UNESCO.
  • Support the activities of its members and those of non-governmental organizations working in the areas of folklore and cultural heritage.
  • Serve the cause of peace and non-violence through the implementation of the above objectives.
Through these different activities CIOFF aims at being an actor of the intercultural dialogue, considered as a vehicle of mutual understanding and peace. In this spirit, CIOFF acts also to make young people sensitive to this issue. Within this framework, the organization undertakes a programme to raise children and young people awareness to the traditional culture and to pass it on to them.

In Africa more particularly, the aim is to recognize the traditional culture as witness and alive expression of cultural heritage and as richness. A richness which is imperative to safeguard, to pass on and to promote and beyond to consider it as a vehicle of development for this continent.

The participation of traditional groups to CIOFF festivals in the world is, of course, the most visible element of the activities of the organization. But beyond a large international net of festivals and of exchange of artists, CIOFF has the mission to set up the net between the agents concerned by the intangible cultural heritage: local communities, national and international cultural authorities, bearers of knowledge, creators, teachers, scientists, political decision-makers, local and national associations.

The duty of CIOFF consists also in getting involved in important African events like the Marché des Arts et du Spectacle Africain (MASA) in Abidjan (RCI), the Panafrican Dance Festival (FESPAD) in Kigali (Rwanda) through the planning of artistic programmes and through the organization of workshops and professional appointments on various set of themes.

Filtering into the recurrent issues/set of themes is a priority for CIOFF. In this prospect, CIOFF Ivory Coast created the Festival of Water H2O in Nigui-Saff, which has today fitted into the international net of the festivals of water. This topic is precious to Africa and the organization has attempted to view it in its cultural aspect.

Here are some examples of activities led by CIOFF through its members in Africa who should be considered as much as encouraging elements towards new events, initiatives and partnerships. All along its activities, CIOFF has to grasp culture as a factor of cohesion, to consider and establish culture as a vehicle of dialogue and peace between the populations and to view it, notably for Africa, as a significant vehicle of development.

©2003 C.I.O.F.F., tous droits réservés.