ALLIANCE Française de Maseru (AF) will commemorate 35 years in Lesotho with a series of events over the course of the year, the organisation’s Director Rémi Beghin has said.
AF is a non-profit cultural and educational organisation which promotes the French language and cultural activities. The organisation first opened its doors in Lesotho in 1981 and has taught scores of Basotho the French language as well as holding various cross-cultural events.
According to Beghin, the 35th anniversary celebrations would start off with a speed dating event on Friday at their offices in Maseru.
Speed dating is a matchmaking process in which men and women are rotated to meet each other over a series of short “dates” usually lasting from three to eight minutes depending on the organisers of the event. At the end of each interval, the organiser rings a bell, clinks a glass, or blows a whistle to signal the participants to move on to the next date. At the end of the event participants submit to the organisers a list of who they would like to provide their contact information to. If there is a match, contact information is forwarded to both parties.
He said a lot of other “exciting events” were in the works over the course of 2016.
“This year is our 35th anniversary and we intend to celebrate the milestone with a lot of events. Furthermore, it’s also the 70th anniversary of the Maseru Library in which we operate from,” Beghin said.
“We have several exhibitions and concerts planned for this year, although we are still working out the modalities. We will reveal the line up in due course.
“One in two AF cultural activities are held with the participation of local artists. Last year, local acts shared the stage with artists from Europe and other African countries.”
Beghin, who became AF de Maseru director last September, has also worked for the organisation in Havana, Cuba and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Basing on his experiences, Beghin said local artistes needed more support.
“The main difference between where I was and Lesotho is that, since it is a small country, there is a shortage of the organisational skills needed to help artists,” he said.
“The support that local artists are getting is not enough. They need to be able to sustain themselves through their craft. That is a big challenge in this country, but the Alliance Française has been trying to assist them by hosting concerts and exhibitions.”
Beghin also pointed out that AF’s role was not to impose French culture on Basotho but to exchange ideas so as to understand each other better.
“We are not a foreign organisation per se since we have a board of directors composed of several people from Lesotho. So, our objective is to build bridges,” he said.
“Our main challenge, however, is funding. Most of our income emanates from the French classes we hold. The more lessons we have, the more money we get for cultural activities.”
However, he lauded Basotho’s “very positive” response to the French lessons.
“I am really impressed (by the uptake of Basotho to French lessons). My colleagues in other AFs in South Africa struggle to enrol students,” said Beghin.
“Because of the history Basotho share with France due to the missionaries who came here, we don’t encounter such problems.”
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