The fourth edition of the celebration of Africa and the African diaspora, featuring music, debates, comedy, arts and crafts, dance and fashion, as well as a market and street-food stalls was back week for 4 days of utopia (Aug 31–Sep 4) in Southbank Centre. The festival investigates the arts and culture of one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-changing continents and looks at how Africa can lead the way in thinking about society, community, technology, fashion, gender, faith and activism. Most of the activities are free.
What you have already missed
The operatic tribute to Nelson Mandela by the world-renowned Cape Town Opera
Project O:Unplugged investigating embedded racism and sexism for black and mixed race women
A club night presented by Senegalese musician, Baaba Maal
Music concerts from soulful singer-songwriters Tawiah and Asya Satti
Fashion Undressed by Mastercard talks on contemporary African fashion :
– Natural hair and beauty with Afro Hair Meet-Up,
– Focus on black masculinity and dandyism with Ekow Eshun,
– People’s Catwalk and the #AfricanSquad
Things to do today
See CHINEKE! ORCHESTRA 6:30pm £9-£38
Britain’s first professional orchestra made up entirely of black and minority ethnic musicians. It performs works from the classical canon alongside composers who are less often heard. Sibelius’ Finlandia features the nostalgic theme of a hymn identical to Biafra’s 1967 national anthem, The suite from the opera L’Amant anonyme was written by the 18th-century Black composer Chevalier de Saint-Georges who, as a virtuoso violinist, led the orchestra in Paris for whom Haydn wrote his Paris Symphonies. Making his Royal Festival Hall debut, Sheku Kanneh-Mason performs Haydn’s ‘Cello Concerto in C Major’. The 35 years of career artist Chi Chi Nwanoku stated shed decided to create Chineke because’Black and ethnic minorities professional musicians are really underrepresented’.
AFRIKAN YOGA 10:30am Free
Led by experienced teachers Lenea Herew and Pablo Imani, Afrikan Yoga uses rhythmic movements to help warm up the body in order to perform postures. The practice focuses on body and breath awareness, the development of flexibility, mobility strength and endurance, uniting the body, mind and spirit for health and wellbeing. Participants must bring their own yoga mat to the session.
CHINEKE PASSENGER SEAT 12:00pm Free
Africa Utopia welcomes Chineke! Junior Orchestra, for a special performance where audiences can take a passenger seat right in the middle of the action, seeing and hearing the orchestra play all around them.
BLACK HISTORY WALK 1:00pm Free but ticketed
An exciting, interactive tour of London’s African and Caribbean history along the riverside. This engagement walk will cover ancient architecture, Black heroes of World Wars I and II, British Civil Rights, inventors, Apartheid, gentrification and much more.
AFRICA UTOPIA COOK OFF 1:00pm Free
A special interactive cooking event showcasing great dishes from a across the content.
AFRO DANCE XPLOSION: AFRO HOUSE DANCE CLASS 2-3pm Free
London based dancer and teacher Sheila Attah leads Afro House dance class where she will transport you to Africa with her afro sounds and vivacious energy.
EXPENSIVE SH*T 2:30pm & 7:30pm £12
Written and directed by Adura Onashile, this bold and powerful production follows the life of Nigerian nightclub toilet attendant Tolu and her relationship to the women around her. Featuring the music and dance of Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat genre, the story moves between a club toilet in present day Glasgow and legendary Shrine Club in 80s and 90s Lagos. Performed by an all female cast, Expensive Sh*t interrogates the power dynamics of the male gaze with one woman’s struggle to have control over her own life. For ages 12+
CAPE TOWN OPERA CHORUS BIG SING 4:00pm Free
Cape Town Opera Chorus and South African singer Joyce Moholoagae present a South African sing along for all ages. Featuring songs from the Cape Town Opera’s Mandela Trilogy alongside contemporary and traditional songs, all singers with all abilities are invited to join the Big Sing.
AFRO DANCE XPLOSION: UMFUNDALAI DANCE WORKSHOP 3:00pm Free
Join Kemal Nance, Ph. D. (Kibom), master teacher of the Umfundalai technique of contemporary African dance in a one dance hour workshop in the Clore Ballroom. Umfundalai is a contemporary African dance technique that incorporates the movement vocabularies of dance traditions throughout the African Diaspora including the continent of Africa as well as the Americas. Umfundalai was developed to explore the “essence” of African-informed movement and the ways in which it empowers contemporary choreography.
AMSTERDAM 5:15pm £10
This powerful play follows the story of Chanje, seduced by the attraction of Amsterdam and the charms of a Surinamese man she met on holiday. Combining spoken word, physicality and music, Amsterdam is a truly 21st century play about love and lust.
ANTIQUITIES HUNT WORKSHOP FOR CHILDREN 1:00pm, Ages 9-11, £5
An antiques hunt led by Mary Ononokpono, illustrator and author of Talulah The Time Traveller.
With Ononokpono’s direction, children aged 9-11 are invited to try to find the missing objects sought by an unsettling museum curator known as The Archivist.
The African Food Market is a must. It celebrates of Africa and its many robust cuisines. It assembles over 35 vendors of authentic African cuisine, representing countries from across the continent. Tuck in to some of the most colourful and varied cuisines on earth.