Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

A Festival of African Culture

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

A Festival of African Culture

Article excerpt

A COLOURFUL celebration of the arts - as well as African culture - is on the cards for visitors to this year's Taste of Africa event on October 12.

But despite the range of dancers, singers, poets, artists and fantastic food on offer for those interested in the spice of African life, the event in 2007 also has a serious message underlying it.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.

And the Teesside festival, which has always coincided with Black History Month running throughout the whole of Britain in October, promises to provide a thought-provoking insight into the lives of black people over the years.

The Arc in Stockton will hold a free debate on October 18 entitled Celebration or Regret? giving people the chance to share their views on the issue of slavery.

Sade Songowawa, who organises A Taste of Africa, is also keen to raise awareness of Black History among schoolchildren, through the African workshops in Middlesbrough Town Hall, from 10am on October 12.

"The workshops offer a chance to improve this local community by developing an understanding of culture and creativity throughout schools, raising the confidence and rapport of young people," said Sade.

A variety of colourful performances by the likes of Mighty Zulu Nation, as well as drumming workshops will entertain the children.

More serious and educational elements of the workshops include a dance drama called Abolition by Urban Cruz, a demonstration entitled Show Racism a Red Card and a slavery exhibition.

Sade and Cultures CIC will also hold a poetry competition for primary and secondary school children, on the subject of slavery and freedom.

Poems can be sent to Cultures CIC until October 19, when the best piece in both primary and secondary school categories will be judged.

Entrants could win pounds 100 as well as a series of educational books on slavery for their school.

Meanwhile, an art exhibition held in the Town Hall throughout the day will showcase some of Africa's finest talent.

This includes the fantastic work of Nigerian-born Alaba Sofowora.

"As a Nigerian living abroad, my art is very important to me as it represents my memories, both cultural and personal," said Alaba.

"I have been heavily influenced by my experiences, not of the extraordinary, but of everyday life, traditions and culture, both in Nigeria and here in England."

According to Alaba however, the biggest influence of all is nature.

"The African landscape is often portrayed as a rich tapestry of reds and golds, and yet there i so much more to it than that.

"The character of the land is intrinsically linked to the peoples that live within it.

"It is their spirit, their character and their culture that defines the landscape around them and it is this that I hope to represent in my work."

A carnival-style procession of African performers is also sure to delight people passing through Middlesbrough on October 12.

Following on from the children's workshops, an evening celebration will open at the Town Hall on October 12.

The evening's programme includes live African music from Zebula and Yong Rydaz, and dance performances from sisters JC Entertainment and the Nzinga Da Troupe. …

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