Africa takes centre stage in Melbourne

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By Abderazzaq Noor

Hundreds of Melburnians gyrated and hollered enthusiastically to African music on a sunny afternoon in the first African Festival to be held in Australia’s culture capital.

The event, which took place on Saturday, 11 January, started with a fashion show that showed off clothes inspired by Africa’s vibrant colours and fabrics. A slower and more reflective tempo was introduced by Melbourne based poets who weaved the magic of the spoken word over the crowd. The poets included Somali-Australians Magan Magan and Munira Jate, Tariro Mavondo from Zimbabwe and Ebony Moncrief, an African-American.

Energetic drumming and a dancing workshop by the popular Asanti Dance Theatre got the crowd moving and singing with wonderful enthusiasm. Later in the evening the rich and smooth voice of Aminata Doumbia thrilled people with a fusion of Afro soul, jazz, funk and blues. The ever popular Somali band Aussom also entertained the crowd with traditional music accompanied by the kaban, a round bottomed guitar also known as oud.

Two short African films were also shown. “This was to give the crowd a taste of film, an emerging African art form. We showed a Sierra Leonian film, Money Tree, and the Good Samaritan, a film made by Ghanaian-American film naked Sam Kessi,” said Samira Farah from the African Film Festival.

The event was organised by Burji Arts, an organisation dedicated to celebrating Somali art and culture; the Sudanese Australian Youth Action Group (SAYAG), a group of young Sudanese Australians who are committed to creating and leading community change for African youth, and the African Film Festival, an organisation that promotes knowledge and understanding of African culture through the moving image.

Left to right: Ajok, Al, Nadia and Samira

Event organiser Nadia Faragaab of Burji Arts said the festival tried to be inclusive by showing a wide variety of performances by African-Australians from Somalia, Kenya, Ghana, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.

“We wanted to show Melbourne the incredible talent of African-Australians and what they are capable of. The artists were awesome. They all put on their best show. Thanks too to our wonderful masters of ceremonies, supporters such as the Australian Volunteers for International Development, the Victorian government and the volunteers who did an amazing job,” she added.

Nadia’s sentiments were echoed by Ajok Marial from SAYAG who said the festival also aimed to build bridges between different communities through the mediums of art and music. “We felt it was time for Melbourne which is Australia’s culture capital to have its own African festival. Sydney and Adelaide have theirs why not us?” she added.

“We had an amazing event that provided us with a platform to build an even better African Festival next year,” concluded Nadia.  Amen to that!

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