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33rd Annual African Festival of The Arts selects Ancestral African Quilt Art as offical image

The “Back to Culture. Back to Tradition.” theme of the 33rd Annual African Festival of the Arts is represented in quilt art by Reneau Diallo, co-founder of the festival’s Quilt Pavilion. The quilt was created in 1999 during the pavilion’s inaugural year as a community art project. Festival participants from around the world and all walks of life contributed to the quilt, including German tourists and U.S. Congressman Bobby L. Rush.

African Festival of The Arts

Each year, the Festival features a selected work of art by an African descended artist that reflects the theme and spirit of the Festival.

“We aim to promote artwork created by Black artists to help increase their visibility among collectors and within the art world, which can enhance the market value of their work,” says Festival founder, Patrick Woodtor, who is an avid collector of fine and African diaspora art.

The central quilt image created by Diallo is a rendering of the Egungun, a Yoruba masquerade for ancestor reverence or the ancestors themselves as a collective force.

“I am so honored to have my quilt art used for the AFA. It is so spiritual on a few levels: First, my DNA supports my Yoruba ancestry, so the art is a celebration that honors my ancestors,” says quilt artist and certified midwife, Reneau Diallo, PhD.

“Secondly, in 1999, Adedayo “Dayo, the Painter” Laoye, who was born in Nigeria and raised in the Yoruba tradition, chose the Egungun for the festival poster and gave me permission to carry the theme in the first festival quilt. Now, my art has come full circle to be claimed as art in its own right.”

“This year’s community quilt is special because we call on the ancestors for guidance to help us navigate these turbulent times and we invite all to come together as a community to reconnect and reenergize in the spirit of ‘Harambee,’” which means ‘all pull together in Kiswahili.”

Past featured Festival artists, include Chicago-based Kerry James Marshall, who is listed on Time Magazine’s 2017 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. His work now commands millions and is found in international museums. Respected artists Frank Frazier and sculptor Woodrow Nash ‒ also of international acclaim ‒ find a loyal and robust client base at the Festival.

Diallo’s quilt was among those included in the Spring 2022 AIH education initiative funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art titled, “ART & AGENCY: Exploring the African American Quilting Tradition.” Companion exhibitions at the AIH Center for Contemporary Art and History, Navy Pier and The DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center featured quilt art by the Needles and Threads Quilters Guild of Chicago, the Quegeh Quilters in Liberia, West Africa, and noted quilt artists Jim Smoote and Dorothy Straughter, who is also a quilt historian. The exhibition quilt art will be on display in the Quilt Pavilion during the Festival.

Chicago’s largest family-friendly celebration of global Black culture allows participants to experience the art, sights, tastes, sounds and spirituality of Africa – all in a safe and gated – replicated African village on Labor Day weekend in Chicago’s historic Washington Park! For festival information visit

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