Africa’s brightest festivals
The distinctive African art is unlike anything else. It reflects traditional beliefs, rituals, ways of life and the continent’s eventful history.
Time does not stand still, the world is changing, and with it the culture of the region. Authentic motifs are combined with the music we are accustomed to, acquiring a new sound. And the African dances of kizomba and kuduru are danced all over the world.
From Tuareg music to modern jazz, from the parade of masks to the “city of creative people” and from Tunisia to South Africa – all the diversity of African art, its uniqueness and new embodiment expressed in bright festivals and spectacular festivals.
Festival au DéserThe “Festival in the Desert” is a great event not only for Mali, but for all of North and Northwest Africa, because the protagonists of the festival are the Tuaregs, the indigenous people of the region.
The Tuaregs are nomads. And they live on a fairly vast territory, which now includes several countries: Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Libya. In ancient times, when modern borders have not yet divided the world into pieces, the Tuaregs living in different parts of the world met once a year in a place near the modern city of Timbuktu (Mali). At these annual meetings, which were called tokubel, they had fun, shared the news, discussed all the past and future events, resolved conflicts and found solutions to difficult situations. And now, with the passage of centuries, when even nomads have cell phones, such meetings are no longer necessary. But the Tuaregs decided to preserve the tradition, modifying it. That’s how the Festival in the Desert appeared – a celebration of peace, tradition and culture. In its 15-year history, the festival went beyond the borders of Mali, becoming international.
The event takes place every year in early January right in the Sahara, near the legendary and mysterious Timubctu. For a few days, a stage sprouts up in the middle of the sands, tents and tents appear, and a parking lot is formed. And all for guests to get acquainted with the traditional music of the Tuaregs. Now, when the festival brings together the audience and musicians from different countries, including Europe, the musical program has expanded – now you can hear performers of different genres.
Music is played in the evening until morning, and during the day there are film screenings on the big stage. And if you don’t feel like watching a movie, you can go and explore Timbuktu, which every year is covered by the sands of the Sahara’s strong winds.t, Mali
FESTIMA, Burkina Faso
Masks are an integral part of African culture. Weddings, funerals, harvest – no ritual is without them. Every country of the continent and every nation has its own “good” and “bad”, “good” and “bad” masks, which have been used in everyday life for centuries. The 21st century with its technology is inevitably replacing the traditional beliefs of Africans, so it is high time to take care of the preservation of cultural heritage.
A group of students in Burkina Faso, a West African country, were among the first to think about this. They founded the organization ASAMA, whose goal was to preserve and promote African traditions. In 1996 ASAMA became the organizer of the largest mask festival – FESTIMA (International Festival of Masks and the Arts).
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During the festival, the streets of Dedougou are transformed into the sites of masked processions and a real African mask dance. Participants dress up in bizarre costumes, whose meaning the uninitiated viewer will not understand – so they are incredible. But each item, accessory and detail has its own sacred meaning. Communities from all over the country as well as from neighboring states such as Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal come to perform here.
The festival also includes other events, such as discussions on “The Role of Women in the Rituals and Practices of the Mask. In addition, a huge market is organized, where you can buy traditional African souvenirs.
FESTIMA is held every two years in February and lasts a week. The next festival will take place in 2023.
Asa Baako, Ghana
Every year in Ghana, a small West African state, the Asa Baako Festival of African Culture takes place. It was first held in 2011, when organizers from Britain and Ghana, together with local residents decided to turn the small fishing village of Busua in the west into a center of attraction for representatives of various directions of African art and thus increase interest in the traditions of this region for two days.
Over the past five years the festival has evolved from a single stage and a couple of hundred guests into a major event that attracts several thousand people who are not indifferent to African culture.
The festival offers many activities: performances, beach parties, surfing, art exhibitions, small tours of the area, movies and even yoga.
Cape Town Jazz Festival, South Africa
The Cape Town Jazz Festival in Cape Town, South Africa’s second most populous and perhaps most visited city, is a significant event in the cultural life of not only the country, but also the entire region.
Two days, 5 stages, 40 performers and more than 30 thousand jazz fans – this is the scale of this festival. The organizers decided that not only foreign guests need to get acquainted with African jazz, but also the local population will be curious to hear the international performers. Therefore, the festival program consists of 50% South African and 50% guest jazz bands. In addition to the performances, which, by the way, are free, the audience will also enjoy other events: photo exhibitions, a gala dinner and a day of golf.
The 2017 Cape Town Jazz Festival will be held March 31 and April 1 for the 18th time..
AfricaBurn, South Africa
The famous American Burning Man seems to have a brother – the AfricaBurn Festival in South Africa.
For 7 days representatives of creative communities, artists, musicians, amateurs and professionals of different kinds of art and just people who care about something and want to be a part of a large-scale event gather in the national park Tankwa Karoo. Together, the participants build a “city” of Tankwa, which becomes their home for the entire week of the festival.
AfricaBurn is a spectacular expression of imagination of creative people. Theatrical performances, musical performances, costumed carnivals, huge cars and much more awaits the guests of Tankwa City. The culmination of the entire event is the burning of all man-made objects.
The main idea of the festival is no commerce. You can’t buy or sell anything in Tankwa, only exchange it. Or better yet, you can give them away without expecting anything in return.
AfricaBurn was first held in 2007. In 2017, on its tenth anniversary, the event will take place at the end of April, from the 24th to the 30th.
Gnaoua Festival in Essaouira, Morocco
Morocco and Algeria are home to the Gnahoua ethnic group, descendants of black slaves brought here from territories south of the Sahara. As is often the case, the immigrants brought to the new lands part of their homeland – culture and traditional beliefs, the main component of which was music. As time passed, the Gnaoua cultural traditions blended with Berber (the Berbers are the indigenous population of the territories predominantly occupied by the Sahara) and then with Islamic ones, forming a trend unlike any other.
Gnahua music has a special sound. It is a mixture of African, Berber, and Arabic religious chants and rhythms. Listening to it, sometimes it seems that the sounds become monotonous and indistinguishable, and sometimes it is as if it hypnotizes. Many have commented that listening to gnahua brings on a trance-like state!
The epicenter of gnaua is the Moroccan city of Essaouira. It was chosen to hold the annual largest international festival of gnaua music.
The festival was created to promote and popularize the Gnaua culture not only among the locals, but also in the international community. Over the years it has gained a truly international fame – now not only performers from different cities of Morocco and Algeria, but also from Guadeloupe (overseas territory of France in the Caribbean Sea), Denmark, France and other countries come here.
The festival was first held in 1988, and in 2016 it celebrated its 18th birthday. In 2017, the event will take place from June 29 to July 2. A nice bonus – admission is free!
“Lake of Stars” is the poetic name given by the organizers to the festival held annually on the shores of Lake Malawi (another name is Nyasa) in the African country of the same name.
The small state of Malawi is located in eastern Africa, “hidden” between Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. The main pride and natural attraction of the country is Lake Nyasa – the third deepest lake in the world (after Lake Baikal and Tanganyika). Not surprisingly, its shores have become the site of a festival of African music and culture.
Three days in a row from morning till night the inflammatory rhythms of Africa do not cease. Performers from all over the continent perform on two stages – the main and beach one. The program includes both traditional and contemporary songs, dances and playing national musical instruments. And in the mornings, for those who still have strength and energy, yoga, zumba and capoeira take place on the beach.
International Festival of the Sahara, Tunisia
The Sahara is the second largest desert on Earth after Antarctica and the largest hot desert in the world. It occupies almost 30% of the African continent, which is comparable to the area of Brazil!
The Sahara is an integral part of the culture of North Africa, in particular the Bedouins, the original inhabitants of the desert, who live there. By the way, Bedouins are not one people, but the common name for all ethnic groups living in this area. Their traditions are closely intertwined with the Arab ones, becoming one whole. The festival is dedicated to their cultural heritage.
All four days of the festival Tunisian city of Douz is immersed in an atmosphere of festivities: Arabic belly dance, theatrical shows illustrating the historical events and folk legends, unusual “hair dance”, when the girls smoothly and rhythmically wave their hair in time with the music – in the old days it was a ritual to attract a husband. But the most important event of the festival is the camel race. It was first held as far back as 1910.
The Desert Festival takes place every year in November. You can enjoy the spectacular program of this event for free.