Background and objectives:
The Messengers of Truth (MOT) Project was initiated and officially launched in September 2004, during the Second World Urban Forum held in Barcelona, Spain. The first global Hip-Hop Encounter, Summit and Concert launched the project and it also brought socially committed Hip-Hop artists, youth groups and representatives of the music industry, from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, together to raise awareness on the positive role and potential contribution that the Hip-Hop movement can provide for the world’s disenfranchised youth while at the same time providing a platform to be heard by political leaders.
The Hip-Hip Summit in Barcelona, Spain in 2004, saw the appointment of the first twelve artists/groups and a movie director as “UN-HABITAT Messengers of Truth”. These artists were chosen because of their contribution to raising awareness of the Millennium Development Goals of reducing abject poverty and HIV/AIDS, promoting education, health care, gender equality, social inclusion, good governance and improving living conditions in slums and inner cities. Each of these artists and the film director have agreed to help the United Nations to raise awareness of the Millennium Development Goals and to devote their time, their art and their energy in support of youth development initiatives in slums and inner cities.
The Hip-Hop Concert held after the Summit was a “party with a purpose” where 11 rap artists and a group of break-dancers, representing all regions of the world, performed about their respective social, economic, cultural and environmental realities. The Hip-Hop Summit resulted in the adoption of a Framework Declaration of Principles and Call for Action by the artists, youth groups and representatives of the music industry.
The Messengers of Truth Project has three major objectives:
- To inform youth living in slums and inner cities of the Millennium Development Goals through the songs and performances of socially committed Hip-Hop artists, singing and rapping in different languages worldwide;
- To empower youth organizations worldwide by providing platforms where their voices can be heard and to help legitimize their participation in decisions that affect their livelihoods;
- To support projects worldwide demonstrating how youth organizations have been able to solve critical social, economic and environmental problems of direct relevance to the Millennium Development Goals in their respective communities.
Key features of the project include:
- Public-private-community partnerships to address complex social, economic and environmental issues in a holistic manner;
- Ownership of the project by youth groups and representative Non-Governmental Organizations;
- The involvement of the music industry;
- Monitoring, reporting and evaluation of project activities in collaboration with the media; and
- Strengthening of international solidarity and cooperation for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Talented young artists from across the globe that have participated in Messenger of Truth events and projects proudly bear the title of “Messenger of Truth”. These include:
- Carlinhos Brown, Brazil
- Bebo Valdez, Cuba
- Fernando Trueba (Film Director), Spain
- La Haze and Geronacion, Spain
- Lam Tungwar Kueigwong, Sudan
- Samsaya, India/Norway
- Gidi Gidi, Kenya
- Godessa, South Africa
- DJ Awadi, Senegal
- Nukke Posse, Greenland
- MV Bill, Brazil
- La Etnnia, Colombia
- K’naan, Somalia/Canada
- Curtis Clearsky, Canada
- Equicez and MADCON, Norway
- Kelly Love Jones, USA
- Rolf Stahlhofen (Germany)
- Sara Mitaru
Highlights of the Messenger of Truth Ongoing Initiatives:
Dj Awadi’s African Presidents' Tour – The Message
Nominating Dj Awadi as a UN-HABITAT “Messenger of Truth”
Didier Awadi is one of the most prominent artists to have emerged from Africa’s Francophone rap scene. Working as part of the group, Positive Black Soul (PBS), Awadi has recorded a stack of acclaimed and accomplished albums, open to influences from Europe and the United States. Over the years, Positive Black Soul has made their mark on the international rap scene, touring extensively in Africa and the rest of the world. Didier Awadi recorded a debut solo album, entitled Parole d’Honneur, which was released exclusively on the Senegalese market in 2001. This accomplished work reflects the pioneering rapper’s commitment to pan-Africanism and reflections on a host of topical themes such as debt, political tension and the plunder of Africa’s heritage. DJ Awadi is presently on a thirteen-country African tour. This tour is known as “The African Presidents’ Tour”. Its purpose is to help raise awareness among African youth of the Millennium Development Goals, and of the commitment made by their respective Heads of State to attaining those goals.
On June 10, 2005, DJ Awadi performed in Nairobi, Kenya. He was joined on stage by Kenya’s own Messengers of Truth: Gidi Gidi Maji Maji, and was then nominated as a “UN-HABITAT Messenger of Truth”. Prior to the concert, he held a three-day workshop with local artists to create tracks for a new album posing the question: "Where have all our dreams gone?”. This project aims at highlighting history through rap by using the speeches and ideas of Africa’s famous leaders and luminaries for the future development of the continent. DJ Awadi hopes to enable an interactive dialogue with Rap artists and to use urban music to communicate with the younger generation of Africans. The Kenyan leg of DJ Awadi’s tour was sponsored by Alliance Française, Bank of Africa and UN-HABITAT.
Messenger of Truth – Kenya: Gidi Gidi Infotainment Services Productions: Mot Showdown
The Messenger of Truth Programme, in partnership with Gidi Gidi Infotainment Services Production, has organized several events in Kenya. One such undertaking was a national rap/rhyming competition, dubbed “MOT ShowDown” with the lyrics focusing on the Millennium Development Goals. The event mobilized artists, and the winning lyrics are being released on a fundraiser album. Another Kenya based Messenger of Truth activity was a Hip Hop Concert and summit held in Nairobi on World Habitat Day in 2005, where various winners in different categories of the “ShowDown” were awarded their prizes and performed live onstage.
A Messenger of Truth Youth Information Centre has been proposed. It is envisioned as both a web-based platform and a physical space that will enable the sharing of information, experience and resources to help empower Kenyan youth. The Centre will be the hub of a network of inspirational young people and their projects, bringing together the knowledge, ideas and resources and providing a catalytic effect for other youth who want to engage in creative and empowering projects.
Messenger of Truth and Native Rhythms Productions
African Global Hip-Hop Summit and Concert, South Africa, October 2005
This concert raised awareness and funding in support of local youth development initiatives and highlighted Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s initiative to eradicate slums by 2015. In order to strengthen the youth involvement level in ongoing slum improvement and inner city community development, UN-HABITAT and Native Rhythms coordinated the compilation of a database that acts as a source of demographic and socioeconomic statistics for youth between the ages of 15 and 24. The database offers quick access to specialized information, such as education and health, and can be used as a means of networking and information sharing to communicate and educate youth on the Millennium Development Goals and the Housing Minister’s Goals on addressing the issue of slums. To increase public awareness and engagement, Hip-Hop Artists were brought into the project to visit slums and provide entertainment while the compiling of data was taking place. The information collected was presented to the Housing Minister as a database and network of the youth living in slums. It is hoped that the Minister will be able to make use of this information, to further disseminate it to the relevant ministries and various government departments for use in their relevant programs.
“Miracle of Candeal”, A Social Musical by Fernando Trueba
The film is about social empowerment and transformation through music, of the Candeal neighborhood, in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. It is the story of how the solidarity, struggle and efforts of a small group of individuals can change and improve the life of an entire community. The director of the film, Fernando Trueba, was nominated a “Messenger of Truth” in Barcelona 2004. The African premiere of the film took place at the United Nations complex in Nairobi, Kenya, in April 2005 on the occasion of the 20th Session of UN-HABITAT’s Governing Council. The following day, three other shows were run for the general public at the Alliance Française. The show was preceded by an overview of the Candeal project from Graciete Batista, a Community Organizer, and Particia Marchesini, a Sanitary Engineer, both from Candeal, who interacted with the public after the showing. Nearly 200 young people undergoing the Street Children’s Rehabilitation Programme participated.
The film was also shown at the Messenger of Truth concert in Germany, September 2005 and the African Global Hip-hop Summit in South Africa in October 2005.
Messenger of Truth Concert, Mannheim, Germany, December 2007
This major event was organized in cooperation with various key actors, including UN-HABITAT, BASF, the Pop Academy of Baden-Wurttemberg and City of Mannheim, Germany. Key components included a Messenger of Truth Workshop involving youth representatives, Hip-Hop artists and independent labels from Germany, Africa and Europe discussing and exchanging views and experiences in youth empowerment and development; and a Messengers of Truth Concert involving artists from Germany, Africa and Europe that featured the appointments of Samsaya (India/Norway), Lam (Sudan) and Rolf Stahlhofen (Germany).
Other key partners for the event included journalists, representatives of youth organizations from Germany and selected countries in Africa and representatives of Germany’s civil society organizations.
Messenger of Truth Academy: Slam Off Workshop, Nairobi, Kenya, March 2009
In this informative and inspiring workshop, young people were introduced to the art form of spoken word poetry. A diverse range of audio and visual examples of the art form was explored, as well as live performances. Group discussion on Urban Sustainability was complimented with the writing of poetic content. Performance and confidence building techniques were shared to enable participants to take their poetic content to the stage. Selected participants performed their work at the Youth Slam Off Poetry Event on Sustainable Urbanization held during the Twenty-Second Session of UN-HABITAT’s Governing Council.
Messenger of Truth Music Summits – World Urban Forum 2004, 2006 and 2008 Messenger of Truth music events have been an integral part of the World Urban Forum and the World Urban Youth Forums. Each successive event has inducted Messengers of Truth and galvanized youth energy and commitment to support sustainable urbanization.
For example, at the World Urban Forum 2 in Barcelona, where a major feature was a Hip Hop musical event, which included musicians such as K’naan, Godessa and Kelly Love Jones. Leading up to the World Urban Youth Forum 2006 in Vancouver, 30,000 young people from around the world were engaged through the World Urban Café dialogue and music events, which moved young people from ideas to action. In Vancouver, a concert of 5000 young people was held and the first indigenous Messenger of Truth, Curtis Clearsky, was inducted by the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka.
Recently, at the World Urban Youth Forum in Nanjing, China (1 and 2 November 2008), the Messenger of Truth event featured Rolf Stahlohfen of Germany, Samsaya from Norway and Sara Mitaru of Kenya as headliners. This event launched the Opportunities Fund for Urban Youth-Led Development. Some 500 young people from around the world attended.
Ms. Sara Mitaru was appointed Messenger of Truth at the 22nd Session of UN-Habitat’s Governing Council on 2 April 2009, at an event, Highlighting Youth Empowerment Best Practices and Models at the United Nations Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.