Tony Allen at the Africa Utopia- festival. Image courtesy of Southbank Center
BY SEAN LEYWES
LONDON, ENGLAND — Africa Utopia is back. In its third year, the annual festival which celebrates modern Africa and Africa diaspora will run from September 10–13, 2015 at Southbank Center in London. Organized by Southbank Center, the African festival explores what can be learnt from modern Africa and Africa diaspora. According to the organizer, Africa Utopia Festival investigates the importance of Africa in the global space:
The festival investigates the arts and culture of one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-changing continents and looks at how Africa can lead the way in thinking about society, community, business and technology, fashion, gender, power, politics, sustainability and activism.
This year’s Southbank Center festival will feature some of the greatest artists from the Africa diaspora. There will be music, dance literature and visual arts. Several musicians are on the line for this year’s concerts. They include living legend of afrobeat Tony Allen with star guests including Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté who will perform on September 13.
Also performing at the event is Senegal’s mighty Orchestra Baobab that will be giving their first London show in three years at the festival. Supported by Blick Bassy, it is expected that festival fans will have a great time when the group gets on stage on September 11. Other groups include one of West Africa’s greatest singers Kassé Mady Diabaté, Chineke! – Europe’s first Black and Minority Ethnic classical symphony orchestra founded by Chi-chi Nwanoku MBE and The Nest Collective that will present The Stories of Our Lives, true stories of Kenya’s LGBTQI community. The first readings by the group outside Kenya will be presented alongside a screening of the eponymous prize-winning film, banned in Kenya.
A new wave of African musicians will add flavor to this year’s Africa Utopia festival. They include South African rapper, producer and film-maker Spoek Mathambo, and Cameroonian Blick Bassy, who is generating a lot attention with his new album Akö. Kenyan songstress Maia von Lekow will also entertain guests at the music festival.
In addition to the carefully selected artists, there will also be talks and debates with focus on African and Africa diaspora issues. To be curated by Hannah Pool, issues to be discussed include Aviation in Africa and Financing the Future to Migration, Being an African Man and Youth, and Education & Power. Speakers for the weekend long event include Baaba Maal (co-founder of the first Africa Utopia), Nimco Ali (anti-FGM campaigner), Mariéme Jamme (technologist and founder of Africa Gathering), Victoria Moores (African Aerospace), Sunny Dolat (The Nest Collective), Feruz Werede (Network for Eritrean Women), Vanessa Iwowo and Awol Allo (LSE), Afua Hirsch (Sky), Joseph Harker (The Guardian), girls’ rights campaigner June Eric-Udorie, film-maker Mojereoma Egunjobi, visual artist Larry Achiampong, and more.
For the lovers of African food and cuisines, there will be so much to eat and drink. For the first time at Africa Utopia, Pup Up Africa will present the African Street Food Takeover. The African food festival will feature more than twenty stalls that will serve authentic African cuisines with delicacies from across Africa.
New artworks by contemporary African artists will feature prominently during the festival. Wall works from Phoebe Boswell and Lakwena Maciver, and a digital installation in partnership with Kenyan digital artist and founder of African Digital Art, Jepchumba will be displayed across the festival site. The art section of the Southbank Center festival will also include a Hackathon for Gender Equality to be led by Mariéme Jamme of Africa Gathering.
Southbank Centre’s celebration of Africa and Africa diaspora with Africa Utopia festival brings attention to Africa. Southbank Centre Artistic Director notes that Africa Utopia brings perspective to the impact of Africa in the global art setting:
Africa’s influence on the UK – and worldwide – is immense. Throughout Africa Utopia we explore what Africa can teach the West, by displaying fresh perspectives on contemporary Africa and shining a light on its rich tapestry of culture, politics, society, gender, business, and activism. I am delighted that this year’s Africa Utopia provides a platform for both legendary African artists and emerging, provocative voices from the continent and the diaspora.
When the event opens, there is no doubt that many will better understand the important role of Africa in the global setting. From African-inspired fashion, featuring a fashion show curated by East London designer Samson Soboye, to music by young African musician and art, there will be so much of Africa to experience.