Following 2012’s sensational first edition, Africa Utopia is back in 2014 to look at what can be learnt and celebrated from Africa and the African Diaspora. Taking place from September 11 – 13, the weekend long festival looks at how African art and ideas can change the world for the better and how Africa can lead the way in thinking about culture, community, technology, fashion, sustainability and ethical wealth creation.
Festival highlights include:
- A one off gig from Mulatu Astake – the father of ethio-jazz – at the Royal Festival Hall.
- World premiere of dance solo work by Qudus Onikeku with spoken word by Zena Edwards – My Exile is in My Head.
- An insight into North Africa break dancing culture – banned during the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia – from Say it through Breakdance, a project artistically driven by Hakeem Onibudo of Impact Dance.
- Talks including those from Edna Adan Ismail, former Somaliland Foreign Minister who set up the first maternity and teaching hospital in Somaliland, Dr. Ola Orekunrin who founded the first ever Nigerian Flying Doctors after a personal tragedy inspired her, Mariemme Janne, technologist and founder of Africa Gathering, and Nimco Ali, anti-FGM campaigner.
- Multi-award winning USA based comedian Gina Yashere returns to her hometown with her latest show.
- A fashion show of designers who originate or are inspired by the rich cultural heritage of Africa presented in collaboration with Creative Director Ola Shobowale.
- Africa 39 – of Hay Festival – will relocate to Southbank Centre for a special one off event and celebrates 39 of the best African, south of the Sahara, writers under the age of 40.
- New work by contemporary artists and designers will be presented across the site, including video, wall works, photography, performance art, and design collaborations including life size craft paper figures by Mary Evans and a textile and sound installation by Yemi Awosile.
- The L’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste –an orchestra and choir from the Demographic Republic of Congo – visit London for the first time. Based in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the group is Central Africa’s only symphony orchestra.
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director, Southbank Centre, said, “Africa Utopia highlights the many ways that the continent could lead the way in thinking about culture, community, sustainability and ethical wealth creation. The festival uses all forms of art and culture to showcase the great voices of Africa and their contribution to the world. We are proud to announce our programme of inspiring speakers who will be considering and debating what can be learnt from a continent which has given a boundless contribution to the world around us.”
We welcome Mulatu Astake – the father of Ethio-jazz – to the Royal Festival Hall for the first time.The music that became known as Ethio-jazz is a compelling fusion of traditional styles with funk, jazz and soul. Its creator, Mulatu Astatke trained at Trinity College London and Berklee College of Music in Boston and he has contributed music to the film work of Jim Jarmush, been sampled by the biggest names in hip-hop and played to audiences of thousands at festivals around Europe. Meanwhile, Simply Soweto Encha will celebrate South African oral and dance traditions mixing Zulu, Xhosa and Tswana songs, full of rhythm and harmonies, gospel, soul, jazz, doo-wop and R n’B. Discovered in Johannesburg, they have been touring internationally since 2008. Homage to Magool, a touring concert to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Magool, Somalia’s most popular singer, will bring together some of the UK’s leading contemporary Somali singers to celebrate her legacy. The show features the well known Somali singer Farxiya Fiska, the first Somali artist to have YouTube hits exceeding 1 million. She will be joined by Birmingham-based Nimco Degan, who is considered one of the most authentic voices of Somali music.
Talks and debates:
The Africa Utopia weekend includes panels, talks and workshops looking at how business, trade and education is shaping the continent and how Africa can help solve the world’s problems. Topics under discussion include the African technology revolution, women and agribusiness, the African finance revolution, the African art market, women in leadership, entrepreneurship, disruptive innovation, education, why China loves Africa, sustainable Africa, Nollywood, how to do business in Africa and what really happens when the Diaspora go back. Guest speakers will include Edna Adan Ismail, former Somaliland Foreign Minister who set up the first maternity and teaching hospital in Somaliland, Dr. Ola Orekunrin who founded the first ever Nigerian Flying Doctors after a personal tragedy inspired her, award winning novelist and one of Granta’s ‘Best Young British Novelists’, Bola Agbaje, Hannah Pool, journalist, author and curator, Ella Allfrey, literary critic, former deputy editor Granta and editor of Africa39, Armand Diangienda, founder of the Kinshasha Symphony Orchestra, Mulatu Astatke, musician, Qudus Onikeku, dancer & choreographer, Mariéme Jamme, technologist, social entrepreneur and founder of Africa Gathering, Ikenna Azuike, founder of What’s Up Africa, Gillian Slovo, award winning novelist, Nimco Ali, anti-FGM campaigner and co-founder Daughter’s of Eve, Christine Eyene, curator, and Anver Versi, editor of African Business and African Banker.
Dance and performance:
Southbank Centre welcomes a performance and workshops from Say it through Breakdance, a British Council initiative aimed at transcending the breakdancing art-form beyond the battle spirit. The project is artistically driven by Hakeem Onibudo of Impact Dance, who has been working with 10 B-Boys from North Africa, namely Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. The aim is to empower the dancers to tell their own stories including their hopes and challenges as citizens coming from a region undergoing major social, political and economic change. The project pursues the goal of showing a positive image of this region and combats the stereotypes portrayed. There will also be workshops where anyone can also learn to breakdance. Southbank Centre is also very proud to host the World Premiere of a solo work by Qudus Onikeku, with spoken word by Zena Edwards. My Exile is in My Head is Qudus Onikeku’s first solo work, inspired by the prison writings of Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka. Dance, theatre, spoken word and song also comes from Alesandra Seutin. This is not Black is the journey of a mixed-raced woman down memory lane, a winding road between Europe and Africa. As perceptions of her change from place to place, she plays with masks, roles and attitudes, highlighting the idea that what you see is not always what you get. The History of African Dance will be demonstrated and discussed by Funmi Adewole, who will look at the variety of dances across Africa through performance, percussion and film.
Multi-award winning Gina Yashere returns to her hometown one night only with her latest show. A former lift engineer, born in Bethnal Green, Gina made her comedy debut at the Edinburgh Festival in 1996 and went on to sell out shows across the world. She has since gone on to appear on various American shows such as The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, Def Comedy Jam, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, as well as The Lenny Henry Show to Mock the Week and Live at the Apollo.
For the first time, L’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste (OSK) and choir will visit London from Kinchasa. This will be as part of a UK tour and a nationwide partnership, made possible with special support from an Exceptional Award from Arts Council England. OSK, the world’s first all-black symphony orchestra, was founded in December 1994 by the group’s conductor and former airline pilot, Armand Diangienda. Based in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the group is Central Africa’s only symphony orchestra. The orchestra’s members are dedicated, talented musicians who are mostly self-taught and often play on home-made instruments. Their work, which includes performing music from the core classical repertoire such as Beethoven’s Symphony No.9, promotes peace and hope in a country torn apart by war and poverty. Diangienda recently received honorary membership from the Royal Philharmonic Society, which is awarded in recognition of services to music. Previous recipients of the award include Felix Mendelssohn, Igor Stravinsky and, more recently, Sir Mark Elder. The concerts given by the OSK will also feature players from Southbank Centre’s Resident Orchestras.
Visual Arts, Crafts and Fashion:
A fashion element will return to Africa Utopia for 2014, and in collaboration with Creative Director Ola Shobowale, Southbank Centre presents a selection of exciting fashion designers who originate or are inspired by the rich cultural heritage of Africa. There will also be a selection of new work by contemporary visual artists and designers presented across the site, including works in video, wall works, photography, performance art, and design collaborations encompassing a range of practices from craft to digital. New work by contemporary artists and designers will be presented across the site, including video, wall works, photography, performance art, and design collaborations including life size craft paper figures by Mary Evans and a textile and sound installation by Yemi Awosile. Visitors can also explore Recrafted: a pop-up market stall featuring the work of young designers from Johanna Primary School in Lambeth. The students have been working with artists Kathy Shenoy and Rebecca Moore from ethical design brand Shake the Dust to explore product development, design, sustainability and enterprise inspired by the imagination and ingenuity of African craftsmanship. There will also be a ‘Film Africa’ screening room presented by the Royal African Society during the weekend.
There are some great opportunities to join in and perform with L’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste Join Southbank Centre’s Voicelab and the choir of orchestra and chorus for a Big Sing to learn a selection of traditional Congolese songs ahead of their Royal Festival Hall concert the following evening. All ages are welcome and to find out more visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk Those with a Grade 4+ in music can also join Southbank Centre’s scratch orchestra to try out some of the pieces The Kimbanguiste Orchestra will perform in their concert. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, instrument and ability level to sign up for the project and for more information.
MORE NAMES TO BE ANNOUNCED THIS SUMMER.
For Africa Utopia press information please contact:
Nicola Jeffs, Press Manager
Nicola.Jeffs@southbankcentre.co.uk / 020 7921 0676
Hugo Mintz (from August 6th 2014), Press Officer
For L’Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste at Southbank Centre press information please contact:
Southbank Centre Ticket Office – www.southbankcentre.co.uk / 0844 847 9910
Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, occupying a 21-acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Southbank Centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery as well as The Saison Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection. For further information please visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk
Africa Utopia TV media partners for 2014 are the Africa Channel. The Africa Channel broadcasts award winning television inspired by Africa, available on Sky 209 and Virginmedia 828.