NEWTOWN’S most vibrant party, celebrating the African continent, returns to Joburg with a jam-packed concert line-up.
Joburg will host the annual Africa Day concert at Newtown Park, which is between Sci-Bono Discovery Centre and Workers’ Museum, on 28 May from 4pm to 11pm. Entrance to the concert is free of charge.
Africa Day is celebrated on 25 May each year. Activities on the day reflect the continent’s diversity and celebrate its achievements and efforts for betterment.
Steven Sack, the City’s director for arts, culture and heritage, says Africa Day is a very important opportunity to talk about Africa, especially from a musician and artist point of view by incorporating new talent with established ones and forming new partnerships.
He says that Joburg is taking the lead in conversations in Africa. The city is made up of communities from all parts of Africa and it encourages interaction between people to share their stories.
Notable events that will be held around the day this year, besides the concert, are the Soweto Hostel Dance Festival in Soweto and the Zoo Lake Craft Exhibition, says Sack.
On 27 May, a Craft Exhibition will open, funded by the Kellogg Foundation. This exhibition will feature some of the continent’s most exhilarating art, dance and music and loads more, note the organisers.
It will encourage the efforts and talents of African artists and crafters. In addition, it will raise awareness among the broader public of Africa’s rich cultural traditions, as well as the obstacles faced.
It will boost the value of its diversity and the raise the profile of African arts, crafts and fashion.
The annual concert takes place in collaboration with the SABC, which broadcasts to about two million people live from the event.
It is “billed as a continental celebration of African talent, excellence and unity”, notes Tumi Rametsi, a Dreamcatcher public relations officer, on behalf of the concert.
Normally held at Mary Fitzgerald Square, this year it will be moved because the square is undergoing renovations.
On the bill are the Senegalese musician, Baaba Maal; the Malian guitarist and vocalist Habib Koite; Olufemi from Nigeria; Namibia’s Elemotho; local hip-hop artists Tumi and the Volume; Durban’s Professor; Uju; the gospel group, The Soil; and newcomer Toya.
Maal is an artist and activist, and is a campaigner for Africa’s youth. Musically, he is internationally renowned as an innovator and has introduced his uniquely Senegalese sound to audiences worldwide.
For the Africa Day concert, Maal is expected to deliver a special acoustic performance, giving audiences an exciting opportunity to witness the diversity of his showmanship.
Koite is expected to reflect his heritage through his unique guitar style. He has been modernising his guitar style by working on variations, which have earned him a position as one of the world’s most renowned African artists.
According to Rametsi, Koite comes from a noble line of Khassonké griots, or traditional troubadours that provide wit, wisdom and musical entertainment at social gatherings and special events. A griot is a member of a Western African caste responsible for maintaining an oral record of tribal history in the form of music, poetry and storytelling.
South Africa’s own Tumi and the Volume and Professor are also expected to have audiences taking to their feet.
Africa Day celebrations end on 29 May with the annual Soweto Traditional Music Festival at the Oppenheimer Gardens. Traditional groups will perform from 10am to 5.30pm and entrance is free.
In the past two years groups from the local hostels have been performing, sharing their music and dance with the community of Soweto.
This year performances include traditional isiZulu, xiTsonga, isiMpondo, isiNdebele, Ubhaca, tshiVenda, sePedi and seTswana music and dance. Indlamu and scathamiya groups from Jabulani, Merafe, Dobsonville, Dube, Nancefield and Mzimhlope hostels are on the bill.
Now celebrating its 48th anniversary, Africa Day marks the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity – the precursor of the African Union – on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. The organisation’s objectives were to promote unity between African nations and provide support to liberation movements of colonised African nations.
It was driven by a common goal of decolonisation, liberation, equality and progress. Chaired by Haile Selassie, then the emperor of Ethiopia, the organisation’s opening was attended by the 32 independent African states.
The countries’ leaders signed a founding charter on the day with the hopes that all the states on the continent unite and that the welfare of its people could be met. It focused on Africa’s wellbeing.
Today, the African Union (AU) intends to secure democracy and human rights on the continent and help sustain its economies by eradicating intra-Africa conflict and creating a common market.
The AU’s membership comprises 53 African nations and is designed along the lines of the European Union, an economic and political confederation of European nations. Currently, it has the power to promote African economic, social and political integration.
It was formed in 2002 “to increase development, combat poverty and corruption, and end Africa’s many conflicts”, notes Stephanie Hanson in her publication on the background of the African Union that appears on the website for the Council of Foreign Relations.
For more information on the AU, visit its website.
The Africa Day concert is jointly hosted by the City of Johannesburg’s arts, culture and heritage directorate, the Johannesburg Development Agency, the Gauteng provincial government, SABC2, the French Institute in South Africa and the French Embassy.
It promises to be a vibrant celebration of Africa’s musical diversity and spirit of unity. Kicking off at 4pm on 28 May at Newtown Park, it will be screened on SABC2 from 9pm.
No alcohol, drugs, weapons or glass will be allowed at the venue; refreshments will be on sale in the park and at various Newtown restaurants.
Africa Day is a public holiday in many African countries, though not in South Africa.