London celebrates Africa this July

Two exciting events take place this month which celebrate one of the most dynamic continents – the Africana Ball takes place in Camberwell on Saturday 14 July and Africa Utopia 2018 is held at London’s Southbank Centre between 19-22 July.

By highlighting the impact of African culture on our own communities, these two events give a new generation the chance to positively explore black history and the future of modern Africa.

Attending the Africana Ball 2018

This glamorous and stylish event is held annually by One Africa Connexions UK. Originally conceived as an initiative to promote unity within the African communities of South London, it has become a celebration  of African fashion and music with attendees wearing their take on traditional dress and performances from black artists and DJs.

The well attended ball may be a fun, late night event, but it also raises money for local charities and offers a chance for the community to meet friends and make new connections.

Traditional dishes are served and the strictly African dress code showcases the very best of African fashion and invites interaction with the continent’s varied textiles and prints. Africa has a long history of weaving and textile production and the patterns and cloths used can hold different meanings. The visibility of these prints worn to such an event in the UK is a reaffirmation of their continuing importance to each generation.

The importance of Africa Utopia

Back for a sixth time, popular festival Africa Utopia – with this year’s theme of Pan-Africanism – showcases the art and culture of this fast-changing continent.

The diverse series of events uses the arts to both illustrate the history of Africa and its modern face to the UK. Embracing various strands – such as poetry, music, dance, film, comedy, and fashion – Africa Utopia digs down into what it means to be African today.

The curation of the festival has been designed to invite narrative and ideas from Africa and asks ‘what the West can learn’ from this continent and its diaspora. The vibrant, progressive acts also question people’s views of contemporary Africa.

Such a detailed event is able to turn the spotlight onto the varied cultures and customs within such a huge continent – made up of 54 countries – and challenge the idea of one pan-African culture whilst supporting pan-Africanism solidarity.

Because the festival has so much depth it is able to appeal to first, second, and third generation African or Caribbean people living in the UK, as well as anyone interested in Africa today.

What’s on at Africa Utopia 2018

Africa Utopia enables African artists to reach a wider audience and encourages re-evaluation of what constitutes African art, with classical music, jazz, science-fiction, and contemporary dance all included this year.

Headlining acts include musical duo Amadou & Mariam from Mali, the Chineke! orchestra made up of British black and minority ethnic classical musicians, Inua Ellams with a poetry inspired house party, Wanuri Kahui giving this year’s keynote speech on Pan-Africanism, and Apphia Campbell’s award-winning theatre performance WOKE about two women fighting for civil rights.

And new film Hello, Rain based on Nnedi Okorafor’s award-winning story will get its UK premiere at the festival.

As it strives to be a true pan-African event the diverse schedule includes themes from all across the continent such as West African dance, Ghanaian literature and Congolese music.

Workshops and debates are held to address issues facing the nation, such as activism, sexuality, equality, and social change. This year’s event even includes a live reading exploring what it means to be a gay woman living in Nigeria.

Language is important to the festival – over 2,000 of them are spoken within Africa – and there are musical workshops to learn Pidgin, Swahili, and Yoruba.

The wide nature of African music is celebrated, both urban and rural, from hip-hop to a traditional block party, and there will be a dance experience and interactive session inspired by head wrapping.

The exciting, bustling marketplace returns as does the popular kids event the Pram Jam and there’s even a celebration and debate over what makes the perfect traditional rice dish Jollof!

This festive take-over of London’s Southbank promises to be an exciting, all-encompassing event. It is open to all but Africa Utopia will be of significance to the African diaspora keen to celebrate and interact with the wide artistic landscape of that dynamic continent.

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