Tenth birthday of Casa Árabe, Centro Sefarad-Israel and Casa África
Based on Spain’s unrivalled geographic location of as a link between America, Africa, Europe and the Arab world, and our country’s rich cultural history, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation proposed the creation of Red de Casas, a network of regional centres whose goal would be to strengthen ties between Spain and different communities around the world.
This year, three of these centres – Casa Árabe, Centro Sefarad-Israel and Casa África – celebrated their tenth anniversary. On their birthday celebrations, they reviewed the work done so far and analysed the prospects for the future.
Over the past ten years, the three organisations held conferences, lectures, exhibitions, music events and book presentations, all aimed at bringing Israeli, African and Arab cultures closer to the Spanish society.
In 2017, the three houses of culture put together interesting programmes filled with cultural events that came to a close on 5 December at Fernán Gómez Centro Cultural de la Villa in Madrid with Hamsa para soñar, a music and dance show combining Arab, Sephardic and African elements in the ‘hamsa’, a palm-shaped amulet used by Jews and Muslims for protection.
Sepharad, or Jewish Spain
The Centro Sefarad-Israel is Spain’s main public institute aimed at cooperation with the Jewish community. It was founded in 2006 with the support of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation (AECID), the Autonomous Community of Madrid and the City of Madrid.
The Centre, which is headquartered in Palacio de Cañete, in Madrid, was inaugurated by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, and former President of Israel Shimon Peres, in 2011. Since then, it has been sharing the knowledge of Jewish history and traditions with the Spanish people.
Sepharad is the name given to Spain in modern Hebrew, as the place and culture of the descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Spain in the fifteenth century, known as Sephardic Jews. The Centre commemorated the Citizenship Law for Sephardic Jews, of October 2015, which waived the Spanish language and culture examination requirement for Sephardic Jews applying for citizenship.
Casa África first opened its doors on 12 June 2007, at a function chaired by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía, and former President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade. The institution was established as a consortium made of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Government of the Canary Islands and the City of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where Casa África has its headquarters.
Over the last ten years, Casa África has been an effective meeting point for individuals, businesses, public agencies and social movements from Spain and Africa. It organises more than 200 events a year and owns a collection of more than 11,000 documents. It actively participates in social media, where it has a community of 70,000 people.
The featured events planned for Casa África’s tenth anniversary included a diplomatic meeting held between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Alfonso Dastis, and the Spanish ambassadors in Africa. The idea was to launch a new Africa Plan as a strategic framework providing the basis for Spain’s foreign policy towards Sub-Saharan Africa.
Spain and Al-Andalus
Established in 2006, Casa Árabe has offices in Madrid and Córdoba. Since its creation, it has had more than 114.300 visitors, who participated in a large number of activities like film screenings, concerts, exhibitions, business workshops, seminars, and so on.
The main purpose of Casa Árabe is to teach the Arabic language in Spain. With more than 6500 students, its Arabic Language Centre (CLA) is the most important institute of its kind in the country.
In addition, the centre organises events dealing with the situation in the Arab world and focusing on issues related to the life of Muslims across Europe, publicly rejecting stereotypes and condemning Islamophobia and racism.
Finally, Casa Árabe seeks to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of al-Andalus, or Islamic Spain, as well as the Arab culture in our country.