The African Festival of the Arts (AFA) has announced a stellar line-up of entertainment led by its Labor Day headliners Howard Hewett and Rose Royce. Held each Labor Day weekend in Chicago, the Festival offers the best in entertainment from around the world, and this year is no exception. These headliners are just one element of the renowned festival that offers a glimpse into the many unique treasures of the African Continent including African-centric offerings from across the globe. Hewett and Rose Royce will take the stage Monday evening, September 5, and the Festival will run from September 2nd – 5th in historic Washington Park.
Rose Royce ascended to the top of the Soul Music world with a string of hits and a tight full sound that rivaled many of the best self-contained soul and funk groups of the era. Formed by trumpeter-vocalist Kenny Copeland, drummer Henry Garner, trumpeter Freddie Dunn and keyboardist Michael Nash in the mid 70’s, the group first served as a backup band for Edwin Starr, who introduced them to his “War” producer, Norman Whitfield.
Howard Hewett, who was one-third of the group Shalamar began his solo career in 1985 when he signed with Elektra. His second single, “I’m for Real,” was a number two R&B hit and the follow-up single, “Stay,” also made the Top Ten, while “I Commit to Love” reached number 12. His hit “Strange Relationship” was followed by duets with Dionne Warwick and Anita Baker. Hewett is also a prolific song writer, producer, and session vocalist. He co-wrote and produced “Frustration” for LaToya Jackson, and sang on her LP “Heart Don’t Lie.” He did lead vocals on LPs by Stanley Clarke and George Duke, a duet with Stacy Lattisaw on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and sang with Firefox, as well as doing background on a Donna Summer release. An eponymous 1990 album by Hewett included the number two R&B hit “Show Me,” and the singer followed up with “Allegiance” and It’s Time. His also served as a background vocalist on albums by a variety of jazz musicians, including Duke and Joe Sample. Hewett returned to the spotlight with his gospel album The Journey, and the single “Enough”, featuring Duke, followed by the holiday effort Howard Hewett Christmas.
The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Ruwadzano’ which means ‘togetherness’ in the East African language of Shona in Zimbabwe. During this year’s event AIH will recognize the impact togetherness has in relationships, in business, and in service to community by recognizing those who embody the concept. This year’s Grand BaBa is WGN’s Robert Jordan and the Grand YeYe Diane Dinkins-Carr.
The Festival is known for its themed entertainment, featured on two stages, each day of its four-day run. Friday night will be Chicago Dance Night featuring tunes chosen especially for Chicago steppers; Saturday night is Juju Night with Nigerian musician Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey. He will be joined by Angel ‘d Cuba and the EPA Afro-Colombian Band; Sunday will feature singer/composer Dee Alexander and the Evolution Ensemble, part of Chicago’s Best night, a line-up of area talent.
The African Festival of the Arts is one of the largest, and longest running festivals in the Midwest focused on African art and culture, and each year draws tens of thousands of people to Washington Park. The AFA is a four-day immersion into African culture and heritage as Chicago’s historic Washington Park is transformed into an authentic African village. Over 300 vendors and artisans will present artifacts, textiles, traditional crafts, and museum-quality art. Enjoy the African-influenced food, music, and dance traditions during an entertainment rich, family-focused celebration unlike any other in the Midwest.
Additionally, AIH will host a Gala on August 20 at the Gabriela on Cottage Grove where they will recognize the Grand Yeye and Grand Baba for this year’s event. For information on tickets call 773-955-ARTS.
The Festival boasts four distinct areas each representing a center of culture and commerce on the African Continent: Nubia (fine arts); Kush (wearable arts); Songhay (African arts & crafts, collectibles and natural products); Timbuktu (African fabric and fashions); and Bank of the Nile (food court).
There will be pavilions highlighting South African wines, health and wellness and fine arts. Pavilions include: Quilting Pavilion; David Durojaiye Olupitan African Heritage Pavilion; Author & Book Pavilion; Drum Village; Dr. Nurudeen Olowopopo Health & Wellness Pavilion; and the Bernice Gardner Children’s & Family Pavilion. Master African drummer Olu Shakoor is the founder and conductor of the African Drum Village. He masters in both traditional and contemporary styles of African Drumming, but he excels in the Djum-DJum and Djembe Drum.
For those wanting to sample the tastes of Africa, you can dine on dishes in the tradition of Nigeria, Senegal, and the Caribbean, as well as Cajun and Southern soul. But, the real stars of the Festival are the fine arts and the artists who make them—be they painters, sculptors, jewelers, or wood carvers.
Founded by Liberian-born business leader Patrick S.K. Woodtor, the African Festival of the Arts has become a national destination point for those seeking to immerse themselves in the African culture. Each year tens of thousands attend the four-day event from across the U.S.
Woodtor founded the African Festival of the Arts as an outgrowth of his art shop, Windows to Africa, and he, along with his board of directors, have grown the event into a Labor Day staple. In all these ways, the Festival gives attendees a glimpse of Africa without the need for plane tickets and for less than the cost of applying for a passport.
Sponsors of the 2016 African Festival of the Arts include the Chicago Park District, University of Chicago Medicine, ComEd, Next Level Health, Community Currency Exchange, Jewel/Osco, ISF Bank, The Chicago White Sox, Moneygram and The Illinois Lottery. Media partners include Comcast NBCUniversal, WVON, Bronze comm, the Chicago Citizen and the Chicago Crusader.
Tickets are $15, in advance, and $20 at the gate. There are discounts for seniors, as well as four day and VIP passes. Children under five are free. Learn more by visiting www.aihusa.org and clicking on African Festival. Follow the African Festival on all social media using the hashtag #AFAChi.