Africa celebrations rock Jozi, Pretoria

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pretoria - Johannesburg and Pretoria were abuzz with several cultural festivities this weekend ahead of Africa Day on Monday.

Organised by the Department of Arts and Culture, the City of Joburg and SABC2, this year's celebrations included a feast of African music, dance, cuisine and crafts.

Africa Day celebrates the day when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed in 1963. The OAU was the precursor to the African Union (AU).

The day is used to acknowledge the progress that Africans have made, while reflecting upon the common challenges faced a global environment.

Minister of Arts and Culture Lulu Xingwana explained that Africa Day was a special event because it provided an opportunity for people to pay tribute to previous generations who fought for Africa unity.

Festivities kicked off on Saturday with an event for children at the Union Buildings Southern Lawns in Pretoria.

Children were treated to soccer matches and had their faces painted with the flags of the nations participating in the Confederations Cup.

The annual Africa Day concert was held at Johannesburg's Mary Fitzgerald Square, featuring Nigeria's Asa, Yuri of Angola as well as South Africa's own Soweto Gospel Choir, Gang of Instrumentals and the Parlotones.

Meanwhile, House music from DJ's Oskido and China took over the dance floors at the Baseline and Cappelo Restaurant in Newtown's Restaurant.

On Sunday, a rendition of Handel's Messiah was held at Regina Mundi in Soweto and a symposium was held in partnership with the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) secretariat at the African Cultural Museum in Pretoria.

Ms Xingwana was expected to attend the event to debate the role of education and culture in African development with intellectuals and representatives of civil society.

On Monday, the African Renaissance Africa Day Concert will be held at Durban's Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre.

This concert forms part of the 11th annual African Renaissance Festival taking place at venues in Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Richards Bay from 25 to 30 May.

The festival is held during the last week of May to coincide with Africa Day and is the only annual celebration of the African Renaissance ideals on the continent.

Music lovers will enjoy a line up of popular musicians including Thandiswa Mazwai widely known as lead singer of the popular kwaito group "Bongo Maffin".

She released her solo album "Zabalaza" in 2004 and was signed with an American label later that same year.

Also performing is Oliver Mtukudzi, better known as "Tuku". He is a best-selling artist in his home country of Zimbabwe and his musical career spans over 20 years and 40 albums.

Described as one of the greatest soulful voices of African Music, Tuku's enduring popularity is largely a result of his powerful lyrics, which invariably deal with social and economic issues, and which are injected with an infectious sense of humour and optimism.

Tickets for the concert cost only R50. The organisers had wanted to kept the ticket price low to ensure as many people as possible are able to participate in the Africa Day celebrations.

"The various events planned around Africa Day were an exemplar of Africa's diversity, vibrancy and the richness of our heritage," said the department's acting Deputy Director General, Rosemary Mangope.

"Whether it's music and dance at Ivory Park, or the incredible exhibition of African artifacts at Museum Africa, our culture and heritage are being showcased in all their breathtaking diversity and beauty," she said.

She said her department is proud to support an event that encompasses the breadth of African excellence through the arts to such stunning effect.