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'Cultural appropriation and colonialism': Library association members blast Africa-themed conference venue

The Wisconsin Library Association said many of its members have criticized "themes of cultural appropriation and colonialism" at the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in the Wisconsin Dells — the site of the association's 2019 conference, according to a a statement from the group last month.

You see, the Kalahari resorts — "where the spirit of Africa comes alive" — sport indoor water parks and convention centers that include African-themed "custom-crafted artwork on the convention center walls, furniture placed in guest rooms, recorded music from the streets of Cape Town echoing in the resorts, and original crafts for guest souvenirs."

That said, many library association members view the Kalahari as "being inappropriate and inhospitable as a conference site" and "have raised serious concerns about this venue," the statement said.

What's more, the statement said the association board "acknowledges that the venue of the Kalahari is untenable for many members, and greatly regrets that attending the conference in 2019 will be painful, or maybe even impossible for some."

What's going to happen?

Alas, the conference venue won't be changing. After all, the library association has a "signed contract" for the 2019 conference with the Kalahari — and canceling it "would result in a minimum fine to WLA of $27,324, which the Association cannot absorb and remain viable." But the board is looking at different venues for future years "that better match our values,' the statement said.

And in order to "use the [2019] conference as an opportunity to educate, build awareness, and advocate for equity, inclusion, and respect for diversity," the statement said a keynote speech and pre-conference session will feature Ijeoma Oluo, author of "So You Want to Talk About Race."

The statement concludes: "The board welcomes your input and ideas to help our association live up to the values of inclusivity, diversity, and equity. We understand that these values are not reflected in the Kalahari as a venue and are taking steps to address this issue for the future."

What does the Kalahari say about itself?

It appears the Kalahari has taken a number of steps to partner with Africa and organizations supporting it, such as the African Fair-Trade Organization, which "helps us to feature many artists" behind resort decorations and products in its stores, the Kalahari website says: " Everything you see throughout our resorts is either sourced directly from Africa or made in our in-house manufacturing shop."
More from the website:
We are also a proud participant of the Ubuntu Institute, run by the Prince and Princess of Swaziland. The institute focuses on education, HIV/AIDS awareness, gender equality, empowerment of women, economic development, entrepreneurship and environmental sustainability. Within all of our resorts, you'll notice a group of talented, young team members from Africa. These inspiring tourism students come to the US to gain practical hospitality experience to take back home to strengthen their tourism industry. While here, they help educate our associates and guest on their cultures.

Kalahari is also very honored to partner with Clean the World, the largest global recycler of hotel amenities, to collect and recycle resort soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions and gels. We've diverted hundreds of thousands of these soaps from landfills to be recycled and given to people all over the world.

Here's a clip showing the action at the Wisconsin Dells location:

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