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The African Festival of the Arts: Using Culture to Span Continents
8/10/2016 1:39:38 PM


For 27 years, Africa International House (AIH) has brought the African Diaspora to the U.S. with their unique cultural celebration, the African Festival of the Arts (AFA)

Held each Labor Day weekend in Chicago, the Festival offers a glimpse into the many unique treasures of the African Continent as well as Afro-centric offerings from across the globe.  This year's event will take place Labor Day weekend, September 2 – 5, in historic Washington Park.  

The theme of this year's festival is Ruwadzano, which means 'togetherness' in the East African language of Shona in Zimbabwe. During this year's event, AIH will recognize the impact of togetherness in relationships, business and service to the community by recognizing those who embody the concept. This year's Grand BaBa is WGN's Robert Jordan and the Grand YeYe is Diane Dinkins-Carr.  

In honor of the Grand BaBa and Grand YeYe, AIH will host a Gala on Saturday, August 20th at the Gabriela, 4315 S. Cottage Grove. For information, call 773.955.ARTS.

The Festival is known for its themed entertainment, featured on two stages, each day of its four-day run.  Friday night will beChicago Dance Night featuring tunes chosen especially for Chicago steppers; Saturday night is Juju Night with Nigerian musician Chef Commander Ebenezer Obey.  He will be joined by Angel'd Cuba and the EPA! AfroColombian Band; Sunday will feature singer/composer Dee Alexander and the Evolution Ensemble, part of Chicago's Best Night, a lineup of area talent; and the Festival will conclude on Labor Day with a headline artist (TBA).  

The African Festival of the Arts is one of the largest and longest-running festivals in the Midwest focused on African art and culture, and each year draws tens of thousands of people to Washington Park.  The AFA is a four-day immersion into African culture and heritage as Chicago's historic Washington Park is transformed into an authentic African village.  Over 300 vendors and artisans will present artifacts, textiles, traditional crafts, and museum-quality art.  Enjoy the African-influenced food, music and dance traditions during an entertainment-rich, family-focused celebration unlike any other in the Midwest.  

The Festival boasts five distinct areas each representing a center of culture and commerce on the African Continent:
Nubia (fine arts); Kush (wearable arts); Songhay (African arts & crafts, collectibles and natural products); Timbuktu (African fabric and fashions); and Bank of the Nile (food court). 

There will be pavilions highlighting South African wines; health & wellness and fine arts. Pavilions include: The Green Pavilion; Quilting Pavilion; David Durojaiye Olupitan African Heritage Pavilion; Author & Book Pavilion; Drum Village; Dr. Nurudeen Olowopopo Health & Wellness Pavilion; and the Bernice Gardner Children's & Family Pavilion.

Master African drummer, Olu Shakoor, is the founder and conductor of the African Drum Village and specializes in both traditional and contemporary styles of African Drumming, but excels in the Djum-DJum and Djembe Drum.

For sampling the tastes of Africa, patrons can dine on dishes in the tradition of Nigeria, Senegal and the Caribbean, as well as Cajun and Southern Soul cuisine.  However, the real stars of the Festival are the fine arts and the artists who create them—be they painters, sculptors, jewelers, or wood carvers.   

Founded by Liberian-born business leader P. Saingbey K. Woodtor, the African Festival of the Arts has become a national destination point for those seeking to immerse themselves in the African culture.  Each year, over 200,000 people attend the four-day event from across the U.S.

Woodtor founded the African Festival of the Arts as an outgrowth of his art shop, Windows to Africa, and he, along with his board of directors, have grown the event into a Labor Day staple.  In all these ways, the Festival gives attendees a glimpse of Africawithout the need for plane tickets and for less than the cost of applying for a passport.

Tickets are $15, in advance, and $20 at the gate.  There are discounts for seniors, as well as four-day and VIP passes.  Children under 5 are free. Visit participating Walgreen's locations for discounts on general admission.   

Learn more by visiting and clicking on African Festival. Follow us on all social media using the hashtag #AFAChi:

Twitter: @AfricanFestChi
Facebook: AfricanFestivaloftheArts

SOURCE Africa International House


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