This Friday sees the start of a fascinating and free, three-day programme of talks and debates which aim to shed an illuminating light on contemporary Africa including the Eco Africa panel that AFG director Jacqueline Shaw will be a panelist for.
Africa Utopia is a month-long festival of music, theatre, film, literature, dance, fashion, talks and debates – part of Southbank Centre’s Festival of the World with MasterCard which started on July 1. This Friday (20th), sees the start of the free talks and debates programme curated by Hannah Pool. The acclaimed Eritrean-born journalist and author has invited a stellar range of writers, thinkers and experts in their fields to shed an illuminating light on the African continent through 15 fascinating topics.
Highlights on Friday 20 July include Eco Africa discussing how Africa is embracing sustainability, Africa and the Technology Revolution, will explore technology’s role in driving entrepreneurship and citizen engagement. China Loves Africa an exploration of China’s growing interest in and influence on, the continent and Africa Is Not a Country, which challenges reductive media perceptions of the continent. Highlights on 21 July include Quick, Hide – Madonna’s Coming a critical look at the controversial issue of adoption in Africa; a discussion about Nigeria’s booming film industry with Nollywood or Bust and Art Connect, a look at contemporary African art and its place in the global art market.
On Sunday 22 July, More Than Zebra Print examines the ghettoisation African fashion by the mainstream; award-winning Beninese singer-songwriter and activist Angelique Kidjo joins a panel to discuss Women, Inspiration and Leadership and Future Africa explores the challenges caused by the ever accelerating pace of urbanisation. All talks and debates take place in the Queen Elizabeth Hall Front Room throughout the day on Friday 20, Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 July.
On the last day of the festival (July 28), Senior Advisor to UNAIDS Executive Director, Dr Djibril Diallo will be in conversation with Baaba Maal. Together they will be looking at the role of sports and youth empowerment in AIDS advocacy and empowering young people in the response to the disease that has had such a huge impact on the continent.
A variety of luminaries helping us to think about Africa differently throughout the festival, include world-class writers Noo Saro-Wiwa and Nii Ayikwei Parkes; Guardian journalist Gary Younge and author and journalist Hannah Pool (Guardian, Grazia, Arise Magazine); CNN’s Stephanie Busari; blogger extraordinaire Ms Afropolitan; Grammy award-winning, Beninese singer; Angelique Kidjo, RIBA Fellow, Elsie Owusu and revered musician and Oxfam Global Ambassador Baaba Maal, to name but a few.
Hannah Pool, curator of the talks programme said: “All too often the conversations that happen about Africa are about how the West can ‘help’. The Africa Utopia talks and debates salon is about flipping that around and challenging preconceptions. This weekend of free talks and debates looksat everything from Africa and the technology revolution, to Africa on the catwalk. There’s music, film, visual arts and a few surprises too.”
Baaba Maal, singer and human rights campaigner, said: “Africa is all too often written off as an intractable ‘problem’ for the world to solve, I hope this festival will reveal just some of what Africa has to offer the rest of the world: The energy of our youth and their desire to engage with the world; The transformative potential of culture and, perhaps most potently, the power of community to bind people together.”
After a day of hard thinking and talking on Saturday 21, The Ultimate Afrobeats Utopia club night offers the chance to party in the Royal Festival Hall’s Clore Ballroom. Celebrating the burgeoning Afrobeats scene headline act Ice Prince (named 2012 African Artist of the Year) will perform his top hits alongside BBC Radio 1/1 Xtra’s DJ Edu, award-winning DJ Neptizzle and Afro House specialist Sef Kombo.