Wednesday, 21 May 2014

What a day!

 Fun! Joyful! Informative! Colourful! were just some of the descriptions overheard at the May 18th Afro Fest. More than 1200 people of all ages and backgrounds enjoyed the lively festival kick off at the Manning Regional Art Gallery. Some danced and drummed with Afro Moses, while others lingered over handmade handicrafts and chatted with informative representatives from Days for Girls, HandUp Congo and Fair Trade.  Ethiopian coffee and tasty treats along with East African tea were also savoured throughout the day.

Families worked together creating amazing artworks using sticks, yarn and feathers at the Kid Zone, a fun space facilitated by Beth Fuller.  The community mosaic attracted artists large and small, as they carefully added lovely pieces of glass and stones to Anke Peeters’ rendering of a Tree of Life. Does anyone have suggestions on where this magical mosaic might find a permanent home in a community space?

African hair plaiting by Newcastle specialists as well as henna hand art by Amani Jensen-Bentley added to the fun activities in the Gallery’s garden. Wingsong Choir engaged the crowd with beautiful African harmonies, led by Telly Bertels, and Senegal migrant Linguere Bischofberger introduced African dance moves.

Tucked inside the Gallery was Cultural Connections, a photo studio set up by social documentary photographer and oral historian Louise Whelan. Festival-goers had stylised portraits taken by Louise, and recorded short oral histories. These will be part of a State Library multimedia pieced based on cultural identity and connections.

On Sunday evening, armchair globetrotters enjoyed a musical and dance journey to Africa with musicians Miriam Lieberman and Kate Adams, drummer Sibo Bangoura and dancer Lucky Lartey. Taree Mayor Paul Hogan and MP Stephen Bromhead were on hand to enjoy MC Honour Machaya’s comedy. Bass ‘n’ Blues ensured that the sound and light was top quality. Wild Fig Café provided African-inspired nibbles during intermission. Ashley Cleaver caught Lucky’s mid air leaps on camera!

Concert guests described the evening as uplifting, amazing and entertaining.

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