African Festival of the Arts, one of Chicago’s favorite end-of-summer festivals returns Labor Day weekend to Washington Park following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic. Spectacular pre-festival events embrace the theme, “Back to Culture. Back to Tradition” which emphasizes a return to the basic elements needed to sustain healthy, vibrant, and culturally anchored communities.
“We return encouraging all to unite as a community to re-connect and re-energize in the spirit of “harambee” which means “all pull together” in Kiswahili,” says. Patrick Woodtor, festival founder and president of Africa International House USA, Inc. “In the midst of the world’s turmoil, now is the time for us to come together as a community to find peace, strength, and determine new possibilities for our collective future.”
As a prelude to the festival, Africa International House USA, Inc. will host a gala reception August 6 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, participate in the Bud Billiken Parade in association with the Chicago Caribbean Carnival and present two programs during July in collaboration with Navy Pier. The current Navy Pier “ART & AGENCY” quilt exhibition in Festival Hall A will remain open through July 31 and an interactive dance performance with an afrobeat freestyle dance competition will be held 4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. Saturday, July 30 on the Lake Stage at Navy Pier.
The quilt exhibition, an AIH education initiative made possible by a TERRA Foundation for American Art grant, features quilt art by members of the Needles and Threads Quilters Guild of Chicago, the Quegeh Quilters from Liberia, West Africa and invited quilt artists including Jim Smoote II, Reneau Diallo-cofounder of the African Festival of the Arts Quilt Pavilion and Dorothy Straughter who’s also a quilt historian.
“Fundamental to our mission and identity as the People’s Pier is the celebration of the many cultures that define Chicago, and we’re especially appreciative of works that help people understand the journey of others,” said Erika Taylor, Navy Pier Vice President of Arts, Culture, and Engagement. “The quilts in the Art & Agency exhibition live as visually stunning reminders of history, emblems of family, and profound symbols of interconnectedness.”
The Saturday, July 30 interactive African dance performance features Muntu Dance Theatre, Khalidah’s North African Dance Experience. Inc. (belly dancing), S.P.I.R.I.T stilt walkers and an open-to-all afrobeat freestyle dance completion. All are invited to share their best dance moves and join the free family fun!
Visit www.AIHUSA.org for full information about all pre-festival events including the Gala and the 33rd annual African Festival of the Arts.