This August, The Africa Centre captured the true spirit of summer with its annual free festival, August in Africa. Celebrating it’s 3rd year running, the festival transformed Covent Garden from its quaint yet commercial courtyard to an area filled with rhythm – the rush of the city halting as tourists and Londoners alike joined together to create an atmosphere that could only be called electric.
August in Africa showed in all its glory, the vibrancy and diversity of the African continent. Gone were the singular representations of disease and disparity, instead replaced with the joy and rhythm that Africa has, for years, enraptured the world with.
The Africa Centre offered an eclectic line-up of African artists, musicians, designers and celebrated personalities, inviting us to applaud the accomplishments of Africans of every creed and colour.
Kicking off the festival was the fashion show by Vou Brown, an independent London fashion boutique which promises ‘contemporary Africa at your fingertips’. That certainly was the case as models of all ethnicities proudly wore authentic prints – tailored suits and structured dresses fit for September’s ‘back-to-work’ wear or even this August’s wedding season.
The enthusiasm of the crowd, many wearing Afro-centric clothing themselves, perfectly encapsulated the rising demand for Ankara print and provided further fuel for young upcoming designers.
The West Piazza saw a range of activities and stalls for the family such as Afro-luso dance lessons and Lomography workshops. Although the lack of food vendors left some slightly disappointed, the inclusion of my local Eritrean restaurant Adulis who catered for such a diverse mix of people was more than enough compensation.
Their popularity served as a reminder that Eritrean food wasn’t just a novelty to white Europeans and Americans, but to Africans too – just as I beg my flatmates for some Jollof rice, they pine after Injera.
Frills aside, the focal point was undeniably the music, colourful crowds congregating around the main stage. Bongo’s Angolan beats were infectious, the crowd created their own dance routines, families salsaing and sambaing. A sure-fire headliner, Fuse ODG didn’t fail to remind us exactly why his hits Million Pound Girl andAntenna have reached worldwide recognition.
As Fuse ODG advocated TINA (This Is New Africa), he offered a sharp critique of the humanitarian representation of his country and urged our generation to take ownership of Africa’s portrayal in the media.
Whilst maintaining an upbeat image of Africa, The Africa Centre did not forget the turbulence of its past, one that permeates every corner of society today. Refraining from invoking the typical ‘slavery fatigue’, the main stage showcased The Missing Chapter, Autograph ABP’s fifth Image Projection –a photographic collection of British black presences from mid-19th and early 20th century. The engaging live display was a vital reminder of the black pioneers, activists and ordinary men and women who have come to shape Britain’s national history.
Rounding off with the legendary vocals of Asa, a Parisian born Nigerian singer, The Africa Centre’s manifesto resounded throughout the singing crowd: harmonious promotion of Africa, regardless of race, gender and background. August in Africa resisted the influx of racially motivated crimes and rather presented a multi-cultural audience that transcended any preconceptions of race.Ultimately August in Africa showed us that Africa is a land of an array of traditions, a rainbow of colours – all of which must be celebrated.
Ultimately August in Africa showed us that Africa is a land of an array of traditions, a rainbow of colours – all of which must be celebrated.