Africa in The House: It’s An Africa Utopia Thing!
The Southbank Centre’s month-long celebration of African culture with its African Utopia festival, launched under the spreading branches of a multi-coloured, 15 metre high baobab tree. But the colour didn’t end there and today, friday, 20, July, promises to take things to pulsating heights as the festival’s three-day programme of talks and debates which aims to shed an illuminating light on contemporary Africa kicks off. A month-long festival of music, theatre, film, literature, dance, fashion, talks and debates, Africa Utopia is the realisation of the revered musician and Oxfam Global Ambassador Baaba Maal ‘decade-long dream’ to seAfricaon the world stage and on her terms.
The festival which has been running since 1 July, brings a talks and debates programme curated by Hannah Pool, the acclaimed Eritrean-born journalist and author, who has invited a stellar range of writers, thinkers and experts in their fields to explore and examine the African continent through 15 fascinating topics. Highlights on the first day of the three-day-programme includes: Africa and the Technology Revolution, which explores technology’s role in driving entrepreneurship and citizen engagement. China Loves Africa, an examination of China’s growing interest in and influence on, the continent and Africa Is Not a Country (For which I am one of the panelists - hope to see you there) hopes to challenge the reductive media perceptions of the continent.
Highlights for saturday, 21 July include Quick, Hide – Madonna’s Coming a critical look at the controversial issue of adoption in Africa; a discussion about Nigeria’s booming film industry with Nollywood or Bust and Art Connect, a look at contemporary African art and its place in the global art market and Arise and Shine, a special live performance by South African poet Lebo Mashile, Nigerian soulful singer Bez, who will perform songs from his debut album Super Sun,
On Sunday 22 July, More Than Zebra Print examines the ghettoisation African fashion by the mainstream; award-winning Beninese singer-songwriter and activist Angelique Kidjo joins a panel to discuss Women, Inspiration and Leadership, Future Africa explores the challenges caused by the ever accelerating pace of urbanisation and We Face Forward: Art From West Africa ( I am also a panelist on this talk – if you come along…say hello and I promise to smile at you. Hope to see you there).
With so much more to come – including a full concert by Maal and guests later in the festival – Africa Utopia taps into what many are beginning to call the ‘African renaissance’ Not only is Africa Utopia a celebration of the continent, but it constructively looks at the issues it faces. Later in the festival, Senior Advisor to UNAIDS Executive Director, Dr Djibril Diallo will be in conversation with Baaba Maal. Together they will be looking at the role of sport in AIDS advocacy and empowering young people in the response to the disease that has had such a huge impact on the continent.
Hannah Pool, curator of the talks programme said: “All too often the conversations that happen about Africa are about how the West can ‘help’. The Africa Utopia talks and debates salon is about flipping that around and challenging preconceptions. This weekend of free talks and debates looks at everything from Africa and the technology revolution, toAfricaon the catwalk. There’s music, film, visual arts and a few surprises too.” While Baaba Maal, singer and human rights campaigner, added: “Africa is all too often written off as an intractable ‘problem’ for the world to solve, I hope this festival will reveal just some of what Africa has to offer the rest of the world: The energy of our youth and their desire to engage with the world; The transformative potential of culture and, perhaps most potently, the power of community to bind people together.”
If you are yet to be convinced, this should oil your appetite for what promises an unforgettable three days – After a day of hard thinking and talking on saturday 21, The Ultimate Afrobeats Utopia club night offers the chance to party in the Royal Festival Hall’s Clore Ballroom. Celebrating the burgeoning Afrobeats scene headline act Ice Prince (named 2012 African Artist of the Year) will perform his top hits alongside BBC Radio 1/1 Xtra’s DJ Edu, award-winning DJ Neptizzle and Afro House specialist Sef Kombo. Now that is worth leaving your house for
All talks and debates take place in the Queen Elizabeth Hall Front Room throughout the day on friday 20, saturday 21 and sunday 22 July.
For more information and a full list of events, go to: Africa Utopia at the Southbank Centre