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Voice4Thought: listening to other voices

People in motion. This is the theme of the Voice4Thought festival taking place in Leiden from 21 to 25 September. Debates, songs, art, workshops, a conference for school pupils. It's all about the encounter.

Blog platform hosted in Europe

Voice4Thought is a festival that uses arts and science to make public alternative knowledge about social and political problems. This is demonstrated clearly in the blog workshop on the programme. In many African countries, but also elsewhere (Russia, Turkey and China), the free press is muzzled or even silenced completely. That makes it difficult to give the inhabitants of the country objective information, or at least information from an alternative viewpoint from that of those in power. Bloggers can allow themselves the freedom to provide such information. The aim is to create a blog platform that will be hosted in Europe and so cannot be taken off air by other countries.

Speaking from experience

In the panel discussion on People in Motion: migration policies kill http://voice4thought.org/festival-2016/creativity and progress questions will be raised about refugees, migrants and travellers. Are they welcome in the Netherlands? What effect does it have if you have to flee your own country? And why are there so many misunderstandings between incoming groups of foreign nationals? The debate will be chaired by Marina Diboma of the Dutch-African Business Council, and pairs of speaker will take part who can  speak from personal experience. These pairs include Chudi Ukpabi, a Nigerian-Dutch journalist,  Isaac Bacirongo, Congolese-Australian writer and activist, and Irial Glynn, from Ireland, a migration historian in Leiden.

School pupils raise awareness

School pupils from Leiden and the surrounding area are organising a conference for their fellow pupils as part of the festival. The initiative for the conference comes from Leiden Global and the Confessional Education Leiden Foundation (SCOL). The pupils want to make their fellow pupils aware of social themes through fun workshops they have designed themselves. The school pupils will present the results of the workshops during the Voice4Thought network dinner.

Art and the Leiden Art Route

The programme also includes music, art and a showing of the film Stranded in Canton. The final music and dance party will be held in Scheltema Leiden on Saturday 24 September. Kytopia will give a concert in Utrecht on 25 September together with some of the V4T artistes.


One special aspect of the website of Voice4Thought is the Voices: short biographies and videos of people who have come through difficult experiences and who have found a voice to express their convictions.

Broader focus

People in motion should be taken quite literally,’ says Mirjam de Bruijn, Professor of the History and Anthropology of Africa and general manager of the festival. ‘It's about mobility, migration - voluntary or otherwise - and the diaspora, and about letting refugees have their voice. 'De Bruin explains that the organisers have tried to broaden the focus of the festival beyond only Africa. 'If your theme is refugees, you can't avoid that. The programme includes performances by Syrian and Iraqi refugees.' As far as the music and art are concerned, the emphasis is on Africa: five prominent African musicians and artists will be flown in for the festival.

New structure of communication

Mirjam de Bruijn in Africa

De Bruijn has been visiting Africa for 25 years to conduct her research, mainly in Cameroon, Chad and Mali. 'Africa has a very negative image,' she comments, 'but there is no "Africa". There's more to the continent than just famine and poverty; there's a lot of creativity and it will be wonderful to share that at the festival.' One of the problems in Africa, according to De Bruin, is the old colonial structures. That's why it is important to lay a new structure of communication over those structures. The African region is interwoven with our world politics, simply as a result of the trade restrictions that have been imposed on the continent. But there's a lot going on there. People are revolting against poor conditions; they are speaking out. We want to let those voices be heard.’

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