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Africa Day celebrates all of Africa Print E-mail

The Grammy-Award winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo will fly the South African flag with their unique isicathamiya sounds

The many cultures that make up Johannesburg will be celebrated during Africa Day, a yearly event marked across the continent.

Multi-instrumentalist Ishmael Lo is billed to perform at the first concert
Multi-instrumentalist Ishmael Lo is billed to perform at the first concert

AFRICA DAY in Johannesburg will celebrate its melting pot of people and cultures from all over the continent, all of whom make the city what it is.

"Johannesburg joins all Africans in celebrating the continent's achievements and in recommitting ourselves to continuing to struggle for a better life for all," notes Nandi Mayethula-Khoza, the member of the mayoral committee for community development.

She reiterates that Jozi is a melting pot of peoples and cultures from all over the African continent. "It's only fitting that our Africa Day celebrations reflect the diversity of our city in an outstanding display of artistic talent."

A full weekend has been set aside for Africa Day festivities, on 24 and 25 May, with activities focusing on arts and crafts, dance, poetry and music. Serious issues, such as xenophobia, will also be discussed and debated. There are workshops and an assortment of exhibitions to "literally encompass everyone".

The City has gathered a roster of amazing African performers for the Africa Day weekend, and it is sure that its discerning citizens will be thrilled with what is on offer, notes Mayethula-Khoza.

History, heritage and culture
This year marks the 45th Africa Day, which has been observed annually since 1963 on 25 May. It commemorates the establishment of the African Union (AU), and the former Organisation of African Unity. Africa Day was initiated as a platform to acknowledge and celebrate Africa's history, heritage and culture.

Organisers of festivities have confirmed that African literature will form part of the weekend's celebrations. There will be a Soweto artists' exhibition and an African literature display at the Mofolo Arts Centre in Soweto, starting on Saturday, 24 May. The display will comprise collections of works of African writers, which are already in Soweto libraries.

The literature will be complemented by a visual arts exhibition featuring paintings, sculpture and pottery that will on sale.

"Among Africa's greatest cultural achievements is our tradition of literary excellence," says Sidney Selepe, the deputy director of arts, cultural promotion and development in the national Department of Arts and Culture. "As [a] department we are proud to support an initiative that showcases, develops and nurtures this aspect of Africa's rich cultural heritage."

Family Festival
The Alexandra Family Festival, set for Jozi's sprawling northern township from 23 to 25 May, will feature a range of artists, including Zimbabwean Chiwoniso. It is sponsored by the Alexandra Renewal Project and the Greater Alexandra Development Forum.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s Mapumba will sing his beautiful ballads and some groovy upbeat African tunes at the festival
Democratic Republic of Congo’s Mapumba will sing his beautiful ballads and some groovy upbeat African tunes at the festival

"The family day activities [will] afford the entire community an opportunity to enjoy the Africa Day festivities right on their doorstep," says Marang Setshwaelo of Dreamcatcher, the event's publicists.

"Africa Day represents African unity, and the weekend celebrates the vibrancy [and] dynamism of the African culture."

However, the main attractions over the weekend are the free Africa Day concerts; the first takes place at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, on Saturday, the second on Sunday, 25 May at Mofolo Park.

Billed to perform at the first concert are multi-instrumentalist Ishmael Lo, Ghorwane, Dobet Gnahore from Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe's Chiwoniso, Democratic Republic of Congo's Mapumba, Eric Wainana from Kenya and Australia's White Cockatoo.

From South Africa, are the Mahotella Queens, the Grammy-Award winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Zonke.

It is produced by Arts Alive and is endorsed by the City; it is hosted in conjunction with the Department of Arts and Culture, SABC 2 and SABC Africa. It will be televised live to 52 African countries on SABC 2 and SABC Africa from 8pm until 10.30pm.

Other live performances in Newtown include DJ Cleo at the Bassline, DJ Nicky B at Sophiatown and M2-2 at Nikki's Oasis, but dates for these still have to be confirmed.

African century
"Africa Day exemplifies the achievements made by the various leaders on the continent with regard to the founding of the AU, in establishing the New Partnership for African Development and other continental developments, to address the challenges and ensure that the 21st century truly becomes an African century," says the Newtown Management District on its website.

Performing at the second free concert, in Mofolo Park on Sunday, 25 May are Ishmael Lo, Dobet Gnahore and White Cockatoo; from South Africa there is kwaito artist and multiple South African Music Award winner Brickz.

Africa Unite! a film depicting the life of renowned reggae singer Bob Marley will also be screened.

Harambe Afrika Celebrates! is a craft exhibition funded by the Kellogg Foundation; it runs from Saturday, 24 May until Sunday, 25 May at Museum Africa and is free. The Kellogg Foundation helps people to thrive as individuals, and become noteworthy contributors to their communities and society as a whole.

Arts and crafts
The exhibition features works of artists and crafters from Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Some of the artists will be at the exhibition.

"Drawing on ancient traditions and skills, the crafters and artists represented at this exhibition will showcase some of the finest pieces," says Mahaliah Kowa of Mntungwa Communication Solutions, promoters of the exhibition. "These will reflect the dynamic and changing nature of our cultures and their response to the 21st century."

Arts and craft are essential elements of the exhilarating mix of music and film that will be taking place in Newtown over the Africa Day weekend, Kowa says, urging the public to support and "ensure continued development of our heritage".

For more information about Harambe Afrika Celebrates! contact Mahaliah Kowa on 011 483 1822 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

A music competition and exhibition, comprising a contest between up-and-coming bands takes place at the Mofolo Arts Centre in Soweto on 24 May. The bands will compete for a prize, which will ultimately be won by two bands that will perform at the main event on Sunday, 25 May.

No alcohol, drugs, weapons or glasses will be permitted at any of the concert venues; but there will be public bars at each venue.

Crafts workshops, co-ordinated by Imbali, will take place at the Bus Factory in Newtown. These entail presentations, a fashion show, a symposium, and literature as well as craft exhibitions.

More than 200 people are expected to attend, among them residents of Diepsloot, South Africans, foreigners, members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), officials from the Department of Home Affairs; Lawyers for Human Rights, the South African Council of Churches and the City's Migrants' Helpdesk.

The workshops, which will take place over 12-days, will focus on xenophobia and will develop practical textile design skills based on African craft traditions.

Facilitators include Connie Sedumedi, Thabo Rakereng, Patience Pashe, Justine Olofsson, Zandi Lukhele and Lungani Mogale. The programme will be run from 9am until 4pm daily. For more information contact AnaPaola Little on 076 184 1311 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

There is a host of other fascinating stuff taking place throughout the Africa Day week, from Tuesday, 20 May; click here for a full programme of events in your area. All Africa Day events are free and open to the public.

For further information visit the Arts Alive website, or telephone Sarah Gordon on 011 482 3580, or Marang Setshwaelo on 011 234 8650 or 082 559 1802, or send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Last Updated on 26 June 2008