Over the past decade, Yinka Shonibare MBE has become well known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalisation. Shonibare’s work has explored these issues, alongside those of race and class, through the medium of painting, sculpture, photography and, more recently, film and performance. He is famed for his Trafalgar Square Fourth Plinth work, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, and Globe Head Ballerina, a new public art commission by the Royal Opera House for the Bow Street and Russell Street corner of the building.

Deloitte Ignite 12 is titled Africa Weekend and will feature the photography of Rotimi Fani-Kayode, co-founder of AUTOGRAPH ABP, showing his interpretation of gay African identity.  John Akomfrah, founding member of the Black Audio Film Collective, will be curating the best of African cinema in the Covent Garden piazza. Mezzo soprano Josephine Amankwah curates composer Tunde Jegede’s African Messiah, an African celebration of Handel’s Messiah. Special guests include Tony Allen, whom alongside Fela Kuti created the sound of Afrobeat, who will also be joined by British pop maverick Martina Topley Bird and Blur frontman and co-creator of Gorillaz Damon Albarn. Yinka will also be participating with several of his own works from video to photography.

Describing his vision for Deloitte Ignite 12 Yinka says, “The Africa Weekend is a celebration of traditional African and avant-garde arts and culture. It is an expression of innovation and Africa’s global contribution to culture. The weekend will comprise of cinema, visual arts, dance, music, food and a club night. My aim is to highlight the surprising aspects of the expressions of contemporary African artists. This is an inclusive weekend that will engage all of the senses from drumming, to dance workshops, to storytelling and food from different parts of the continent.”

The festival opens on 31 August with an introductory talk featuring festival curator Yinka Shonibare MBE and cultural historian Gus Casely-Hayford. This is followed by a concert in the Linbury Studio Theatre from Tony Allen and Niaja Centric Orchestra plus special guests including Martina Topley Bird. The concert brings together traditional and contemporary Nigerian artists blended with international artists. Tony Allen is best known as the co-founder of Afrobeat (with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti). Nigeria’s most exported colonial art form, Afrobeat is a blend of ancient West African, regional rhythms from Nigeria and jazz, funk and hip hop. Tickets for the Tony Allen concert are £25 with £20 concessions.

There is free entry throughout Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 September when visitors can experience a unique interactive exhibition of contemporary African musical instruments in the Paul Hamlyn Hall. Entitled Instrumentos and curated by Angolan composer, performer and designer Victor Gama, there will be live demonstrations of these fascinating instruments throughout the weekend, plus a free concert on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 September at 7pm.

Across the Royal Opera House examples of the work of black photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode will be displayed. Founding member of Autograph, the Association of Black Photographers in London, Fani-Kayode explored the tensions created by sexuality, race and culture through stylised portraits and compositions.  His vigorous use of colour and original use of symbolism reflect both Nigerian tradition and the new possibilities of expression and political debate in London in the 1980’s.

On Saturday in the Linbury Studio Theatre, Tavaziva Dance Company will perform their recent work Sensual Africa. Choreographed by Bawren Tavaziva it was inspired by his trip to Malawi.

In the Clore Studio Upstairs, emerging choreographer and founder of Vocab Dance Company Alesandra Seutin will lead open workshops and lecture demonstrations with professional dancers to illustrate how traditional African dance can be fused with Western classical and contemporary movement. Alesandra Seutin will also be staging improvisations around the exhibition.

Families can participate in African Dance, Storytelling and Drumming workshops led by IRIE! Dance Theatre, Britain’s leading dance-theatre company who specialize in African and Caribbean dance fusion. Workshops take place across the weekend in the Clore Studio Upstairs, the Lambert Studio and the Crush Room.

BBC Radio1Xtra’s DJ Edu hosts a club night in the Linbury Studio Theatre on Saturday 1 September, bringing the sound of the African underground to the UK, featuring a variety of African genres of music including Genge, soul and urban, through to Coupe De Cale, Zouk, Lingala, Soukous, Nigerian and Egyptian hits and Afro beats. Tickets cost just £10.

Mezzo soprano Josephine Amankwah will curate a classical concert in the Linbury Studio Theatre on Sunday 2 September, featuring African Messiah by composer Tunde Jegede. Based on the themes and melodies of Handel’s Messiah but seen through an African worldview, the piece is scored for soprano, mezzo, tenor, baritone, spoken word artist, gospel chorus, string ensemble and The African Classical Music Ensemble led by Jegede which features the Kora (Harp-lute), Riti (African violin), Kologo (African Lute) and percussion.  The cast includes singers Josephine Amankwah, Juwon Ogungbe, Wills Morgan and spoken word artist HKB FiNN. African Messiah draws on African and European music traditions as it follows the story of the messiah in parallel to the story of African people bringing together their music and baroque opera for the first time.

In the Crush Room on Sunday, South African tenor Sipho Fubesi will give a classical recital. Fubesi studied music at the University of Cape Town and at the Royal Northern College of Music and was recently seen at the Royal Opera House in the Tarik O’Regan’s opera Heart of Darkness which had its world premiere in the Linbury Studio Theatre in November 2011 for Opera East.

Outside the Royal Opera House in the Covent Garden Piazza throughout Saturday and Sunday will be free outdoor screenings of African films, curated by film director, BFI Governor and founding member of Black Audio Film Collective John Akomfrah OBE.

Yinka Shonibare MBE has included a small sample of his own work within the festival.  Large stills from Shonibare’s film Odile and Odette will be displayed in the box office link and a showing of his films Odile and Odette, Un ballo in maschera and Addio del Passato can be seen in the Linbury Studio Theatre on Saturday.

A wide selection of African food from across the continent will be available across the weekend.

Weekend line-up in brief

The weekend will feature cinema, visual arts, music, food and a club night, all fusing to highlight the surprising aspects of the expressions of contemporary African artists.

  • In the photography of Rotimi Fani-Kayode, co-founder of photographic agency Autograph ABP, we see his interpretation of gay African identity.
  • John Akomfrah, founding member of the Black Audio Film Collective, will be curating the best of African cinema in Covent Garden Piazza.
  • Josephine Amankwah and Tunde Jegede will be performing African Messiah, an African celebration of Handel’s Messiah, curated by Josephine Amankwah.
  • Tavaziva Dance will perform Sensual Africa, a dance work inspired by Bawren Tavaziva’s trip to Malawi.
  • Victor Gama’s interactive exhibition of contemporary musical instruments inspired by African instruments, is complemented by a concert featuring the instruments with Victor performing alongside other musicians from Angola and Portugal.
  • Improvizations from Alesandra Seutin bring together African dance, ballet and contemporary dance. Alesandra and IRIE! Dance Theatre will also lead workshops. Yinka will be participating too, exhibiting several of his own works. Tickets for the daytime events are free.
  • Special guests for the evening concerts will include Radio 1xtra’s DJ Edu, who will take over the Linbury Studio Theatre with his mix of African underground, and Tony Allen, who, along with Fela Kuti, created the sound of Afrobeat.




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