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Culture remains at the epicenter of the African Festival of the Arts

The AFA legacy is one of connecting cultures and celebrating heritage

8/21/2019, noon | Updated on 8/21/2019, noon
If you were to look for the exact heart and soul of the African Festival of the Arts on the ...
Photo by Bill Scott

Culture remains at the epicenter of the African Festival of the Arts The AFA legacy is one of connecting cultures and celebrating heritage

If you were to look for the exact heart and soul of the African Festival of the Arts on the grounds of Washington Park it would likely be the Ancestral Grove. There, for 30 years, the day before the start of the Festival, members of Africa International House, the staff, volunteers and the community gather to pay homage to the ancestors prior to the opening of the Festival. Then, as the Festival beings, they bless the grounds saying prayers in a tradition rooted in African culture. It is just one part of the cultural legacy of one of the largest and longest running African Diaspora Festivals in the country. The 30th Annual African Festival of the Arts (AFA) will be held over the four-day Labor Day weekend, Aug. 30 – Sept. 2. The theme for this special anniversary is appropriately “Spirit of Africa.” The Festival opens from 1 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday – Monday.

Known for its entertainment that has included everyone from James Brown, to Parliament Funkadelic to Wyclef and this year the Ohio Players and Afro B, the Festival boasts a rich cultural heritage as well. The Bernice Gardner Children’s Pavilion offers programming and children’s activities daily during the Festival. At the “Pa” David Durojaiye Olupitan African Heritage Pavilion festival goers can celebrate the descendants of Africa in Chicago with programming and information on Chicago-based Diaspora organizations like The Earth Center, a Chicago based group connecting humanity and the diaspora to its original way of life and understanding of the universe.

The Drum & Afro-Folk Village is a natural gathering place during the Festival, overseen by Master drummers Olu Shakoor and Baba Tyhemba Mtu. There they demonstrate how the ancient art of drumming has been a vehicle for communication and celebrations of life, marriage, birth, anniversaries, wars and the harvest for millennia. And of course if you need your drum repaired, they can handle that as well. There is also the Author and Book Pavilion, African Spirituality Village and the Health & Wellness Village.

“The African Festival of the Arts is about elevating community, creativity, commonality of purpose, sharing, and health and wellness,” says founder Patrick Woodtor, a Liberian native who started the Festival while running his shop Windows to Africa. “The Festival is a place where all Chicagoans are welcome and can feel uplifted.”

So come for the entertainment but bring your family and engage with the culture of the Diaspora and see how AFA transforms the Festival grounds into an African village, one with something for everyone. Tickets for the performances are included in the price of festival admission and may be purchased now beginning at $15. Visit www.AfricanFestivalChicago.com for advanced purchases.

This Friday, August 16th Africa House International will host their Annual AFA Gala

at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts on the campus of the University of Chicago. The Gala will include an exhibition of photos spanning the 30 years of the African Festival of the Arts presented by the Chicago Coalition of African American Photographers (CCAAP).

Connect to the 30th Annual AFA experience on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #AFAChi30.

Sponsors for the 30th Annual African Festival of the Arts include AC Green,

AARP Foundation, AARP Illinois, Africa International House USA, AfroZons, Babystore, Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition, BET, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bonneville Academy Charter School, Bud Billiken Parade, CBS 2 Chicago, Chicago Alliance of African American Photographers (CAAAP), Chicago Cubs, Chicago Park District, Chicago Reader, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Teachers Union, Chicago White Sox, ComEd, County Care, Disney, Ethiopian Airlines, Field Foundation, Ford Foundation, Ford Motor Company, Gift of Hope, Illinois Art Council, IlliniCare, Illinois Lottery, Jewel-Osco, Luster Products, MacArthur Foundation, Navy Pier, Nielsen, NRG, Oak Street Health, Pepsico, Pillars Insurance, PNC Bank, Prince Charitable Trust, Rogers Auto Group, Rush Hospital, Senior Talk Radio, Starbucks, State of Illinois, Step North, Surfs Up Restaurant, T-Mobile, The Chicago Citizen Newspaper, The Chicago Crusader, The Circle Foundation, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, UChicago Medicine, UIC’s Urban Health Program, United Airlines, Veteran’s Affairs, Walmart, Wines of South Africa and WVON Radio..