Thursday, 18 August 2011

African World Festival highlights

While packing the diverse history and culture of the African Diaspora into a three-day event is nearly impossible, organizers of the annual African World Festival handle the challenge with creative aplomb.
Held at Detroit's Hart Plaza, the three-day 29th annual festival offers music, vendors, ethnic food and more.
The event isn't just an opportunity to have a good time; it also exposes people to the flavors of the African world, brings communities together and puts a spotlight on Detroit's cultural richness, says festival director Njia Kai.
It's also an opportunity to learn more about the festival's presenter, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Kai says.
"It's important for people to be aware of the museum and recognize that it has (grown) and continues to grow, presenting new and exciting educational and entertaining exhibits and special events," Kai says.
The cultural attraction draws more than 300,000 people annually, many of them out-of-towners.
"I have gotten calls from people in Canada, Hawaii, inquiring about the festival," Kai says.
"People will set their vacation time for the third week of August. They expect Detroit to be a mecca for African-American culture and we aim to please."
New this year is the expansion of activities that will ensure that the young will not be restless. Instead of holding children's activities on Saturday and Sunday only, the festival will open the Watoto Village on Friday for the Watoto Celebration for families. Watoto means children in Swahili.
The celebration will include performances by folk singer Ella Jenkins, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
The festival also will be a place for personal discovery.
African plans to roll into town with its We Are Africa 2011 Road Tour where visitors can learn how to pinpoint their ancestry and about the ancestries of local personalities, including Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson and poet jessica Care moore.
Things will take a fashionable turn during the "Detroit Rocks the Runway" fashion design competition on Saturday. The event's special guest judge will be Detroit's own Naima Mora, who won cycle 4 of "America's Next Top Model."
And be sure to warm up your muscles because you will find it hard not to groove with a festival musical lineup that includes performances by headliner Roy Ayers on Friday.
The jazz-funk master is known for classics such as "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" and "Running Away."
Saturday, check out "Black Women Rock!" Presented by moore, the event will bring together black female rock 'n' soul singers, musicians, poets and performance artists.
The African World Festival also will celebrate the lives of music icons Bob Marley, Gil Scott-Heron and Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Kuti's life is chronicled in the touring Broadway musical "Fela!," which will be at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in February.
Through the collaborative efforts of Music Hall and the Wright museum, festival-goers can explore a multimedia Kuti exhibit at Hart Plaza during the festival.
There will be a special exhibit unveiling Friday, from 5-7 p.m., with Kuti album cover artist Lemi Ghariokwu in attendance.

The Man, the Movement, the Music," a visual and aural exhibit honoring Afro-pop musician and activist Fela Kuti, will be unveiled Friday. Lemi Ghariokwu, the designer of album covers for artists like Kuti and Bob Marley, will speak during the ceremony. 5-7 p.m. Friday.

• A Parade of Nations will depart from Woodward at I-75 and proceed to Hart Plaza. 11 a.m. Saturday, with Hart Plaza arrival at noon.

• Naima Mora, the Detroiter who won "America's Next Top Model" in 2005, will be a guest judge for the "Detroit Rocks the Runway" fashion design competition, which will merge hip-hop with traditional African textiles and design. 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

• Detroit poet-musician Jessica Care Moore will host "Black Women Rock!," a gathering of musicians, singers, poets, spoken-word and performance artists. 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

•'s "We Are Africa 2011 Road Tour" will be on site throughout the weekend, offering information and more about using DNA to trace ancestry. There will be presentations and other events, along with test kits for purchase. More info at .

• Third New Hope Baptist Church will present "Sermon on the River." Noon Sunday.

• The Motown Summer Blast Gospel Explosion will showcase one of the city's most potent musical genres. 2 p.m. Sunday.

• Multifaceted vocalist Rachelle Ferrell will perform on the event's main stage. 7 p.m. Sunday.

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