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A residency for Peruvian and French artists in Peru © Antonio de Loayza /AFD
Created in 2021, the Metis Fund supports local artists getting involved in development projects in countries where AFD operates. From countries as diverse as Peru, Haiti, and Burkina Faso, local artistic initiatives are emerging. In Haiti, an actress and her team worked with schoolchildren to put on a play that tackles questions of violence, performed in Port-au-Prince in June 2022. On the eve of this year's European Development Days on 21 and 22 June, we look back at an innovative program.

This year, AFD designed and put into action the Metis Fund. The aim of this unprecedented financial mechanism is to add a new dimension to AFD projects all over the world, by supplementing and enlivening them with artistic productions that can reach out to local people. 

Metis-funded art is wide-ranging and includes painting, comics, photography, music, and dance—all ways for participating artists to express, describe and portray the diverse realities of the world around them – and the one to which they aspire. Their art rounds out the development projects, “creating moments of life and emotion to reinforce our technical actions,” according to Tiphaine de Mombynes, head of the Metis Fund for AFD. In this way, art and development are combined, in a process that Metis seeks to encourage. It is after all, a source of inspiration and connections. 

Theater and Violence 

New development stakeholders thanks to art

The cultural projects funded by Metis can supplement any kind of development action, with grants ranging from €10,000 to €15,000 per project. Its funding can reach artists via art foundations (as is currently the case in India); via NGOs dedicated to topics in art (in Nigeria); or it can go directly to artists (in Haiti, Mexico, and Morocco). “The forms of partnership vary, but what they all have in common is that, in the end, the funds target local artists,” says Tiphaine de Mombynes. 

By calling for sponsorship of the artists, Metis is also bringing a new family of stakeholders on board to work with AFD and its current partners. “Who better than sponsors in the countries where we work can support both us and the local artists, to help stimulate Metis as a lever of action?” Tiphaine de Mombynes asks rhetorically.  

Metis is an ad hoc structure, whose agility and flexibility help it adapt to the world of culture and to gain in efficiency. It has already funded artists of “the first graduating class”, who have carried out 10 pilot projects in 10 places around the globe where AFD operates. “Metis” is the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, prudence, and deep thought. Just as she gives Zeus his matchless power, these “Metis artists” seek to bring a life force to often difficult situations on the ground.

Culture serving people

In Haiti, a country plagued by insecurity and violence, Metis is behind the creation of a theatrical piece and its performance by an actress accompanied by middle school students aged 12 to 15. It’s a way for those young people to express themselves faced with the social and political crisis of the country. “Words can bring relief. Art can try to transcend the violence that young people experience daily, and turn it into a tool of resistance,” says Gaëlle Letilly, director of the AFD office in Haiti. 

In Burkina Faso, it’s through street performances and dance training that social link is created. Choreographer, dancer, and founder of the “Le Grin des Arts Vivants” dance school Irène Tassembédo produces for the general public, but particularly for women and vulnerable urban people, with their social inclusion in mind. The dancers in the project belong to several ethnic groups and perform before audiences who are also of different ethnic groups. As Irène Tassembédo sees it, “We can change a lot of things through art. It’s our weapon of mass construction.” Gilles Chausse, director of AFD’s Burkina Faso office, adds that the project “is a moment of peace and love in a country increasingly marked by violence.” 

Discover the Metis platform

The projects supported by Metis can transcend ethnic, cultural and social backgrounds, creating moments of sharing and discovery. In Peru, French and Peruvian artists honor the forest and the culture of the Huitoto indigenous people, with protection and conservation in mind. This project is designed to fit in with the culture of the country and gives a voice to its challenges. “By organizing a cross-residency between Peruvian and French artists, we promote artists from Amazonia and Brocéliande. We encourage them to exchange,” says Laurent Pacoud, Director of AFD’s Peru office. “And because myth precedes thought, forest art intrinsically advocates a form of ecology. These are the paths being cleared by Metis, for AFD to continue to do its work, and that work can in turn spread to the arts.” 

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