The 2016 edition of the Moja Arts Festival is being considered a success despite its disruption for the second year in a row by inclement weather.
The 2015 Moja Arts Festival was curtailed last year by flooding billed as the most outstanding in the previous 100 years. Water in the form of Hurricane Matthew again soaked the Lowcountry while the Moja Arts Festival took center stage as the season’s premier cultural arts event. Still, coordinators say the festival that began Sept. 29 scheduled to continue through the Oct. 9 finale was among the most successful. The Oct. 15 annual Heritage and Community Tribute Luncheon will be held as originally scheduled.
As Hurricane Matthew bore down on Charleston from the Atlantic, South Carolina braced for the anticipated maximum category 4 storm. Gov. Nikki Haley advised coastal residents to evacuate the Lowcountry. That was among the factors which prompted Charleston Cultural Affairs Department officials to evacuate plans to continue the festival.
Despite an optimistic start – the Oct. 30 annual Reggae Block Party at Brittlebank Park drew some 10,000 attendees – and attendance numbers at other events surpassing those of previous years, festival coordinators had no choice except to cancel events scheduled Oct. 5-Oct. 9.
Highlighted among them were the annual harbor cruise, the Dance Theatre of Harlem, a Jazz concert featuring nationally acclaimed musician Najee, classical performances featuring pianist Dr. Wilfred Delphin and others, a production by the Gullah Geechee Angel Network, a one-woman show based on the life of Underground Railroad Conductor Harriet Tubman and the annual Moja Finale at Hampton park.
The annual Community Tribute Luncheon will be held as originally scheduled Oct. 15 at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. Moja’s R&B concert featuring Cameo was canceled prior to cancellations due to Hurricane Matthew for unrelated reasons. Department of Cultural Affairs Director Scott Watson said many of the cancelled events will be rescheduled, some in the next couple of weeks.
Many of the major events such as Art Forms and Theatre Concepts’ four-day theatrical productions, Heritage Day at Marion Square, the St. Paul Music Festival, a celebration of the music of Prince and a panel discussion of the history of the Maryville/Ashleyville community were conducted prior to curtailing the festival, he said. About the events that were cancelled Scott said, “We feel most obliged to those artists and want to make good our commitment to them.”
For various reasons some events may be held as late as January depending on the availability of the artists and some venues may change. Ticket holders likely will have the option either to attend rescheduled events or get refunds. Scott said he appreciates that the spirit which animates the Moja Arts Festival doesn’t go away. Cancellations due to Hurricane Matthew was disappointing, not catastrophic, he said.
Former Moja planning committee chair Elease Amos-Goodwin echoed Watson’s sentiments. Moja’s audience is a very loyal one, she said. The attendance numbers for this year’s curtailed festival indicate rescheduled events will do well and next year’s festival will be even better.