Africa Rises in Music, Fashion Festival – By Norma Porter – WI Contributing Writer

August 7th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

International music artists, models and designers of the African Diaspora celebrated African culture and promoted “sustainable solutions” to the Continent’s economic, social and health issues at the third annual Africa Rising Music and Fashion Festival.

The sounds of African drumming and Senegalese recording artist Youssou N’Dour singing in his native language, Wolof, the soulful voice of John Legend and the hip-hop metaphors of Jay-Z filled the Concert Hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Aug. 1. (more…)

International music artists, models and designers of the African Diaspora celebrated African culture and promoted “sustainable solutions” to the Continent’s economic, social and health issues at the third annual Africa Rising Music and Fashion Festival.

The sounds of African drumming and Senegalese recording artist Youssou N’Dour singing in his native language, Wolof, the soulful voice of John Legend and the hip-hop metaphors of Jay-Z filled the Concert Hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Aug. 1.
International supermodels Tyson Beckford from the U.S., Liya Kebede from Ethiopia, Oluchi from Nigeria and Alek Wek from Sudan strutted down the catwalk modeling designs of Nigerian designers Fati Asibelua and Chris Aire.

Asibelua is the creative director of MOMO, the high-fashion clothing collection for the modern African woman. Baskets, cowries and the global coin of Nigeria inspired Asibelua’s collection, which included flowing dresses and a modern approach to traditional African garb for women, displayed at the festival.

Nigerian jewelry designer Airs, also known as the King of Bling or the Emperor of Ice, shares a different outlook on jewelry. According to Aire, jewelry is usually considered an accessory, but he believes that jewelry can be the focus of an outfit and the clothes can become the accessory. The collection of jewelry displayed at the festival, which included a diamond dress modeled by Oluchi and diamond skirt modeled by Wek.

Nduka Obaigbena, Editor-in-Chief of THISDAY, Nigeria’s premiere newspaper, launched the first THISDAY Music and Fashion Festival in 2006. Obaigbena said the purpose of the festival is to “not only reflect the culture and positive attributes of Africa’s social, political and economical progress, but also to reach out to the continent’s diverse population, as well as the Diaspora and international communities.”

According to Obaigbena, the theme of the festival, “Africa Rising,” suggests that the international community should change their approach to solving Africa’s complex issues.

“Right now the international community seems to be dealing with the symptoms not the problems of Africa,” Obaigbena said. “The symptoms are poverty and disease, but the problem is lack of social and physical infrastructure. This initiative is to highlight the need to focus sustainable solutions on the problems through massive investment in infrastructure and micro-finance in order to rebuild Africa from the ground up.”

Aire participated in the Festival to bring awareness to the positive aspects of Africa.

“Nigeria has a negative reputation. We can change that perception through this work,” Aire said. “People can see that there’re a lot of talented people on the Continent and in Nigeria.”

John Legend said celebrities can draw their fans to events like the Africa Rising festival and try to influence them to mobilize and advocate for a good cause.

“I think artists like myself and Jay-Z have the power to bring people out to events. Once we get them here we can get the message to people, get them motivated and hopefully get them involved in what’s going on,” Legend said.

The Africa Rising Festival is a cross-continent event traveling to Abuja and Lagos, two major cities in Nigeria, Washington, D.C. and London. The festival in Abuja took place at the THISDAY Dome on July 11th and the festival in Lagos took place at the THISDAY Center on July 13. The festival is scheduled to be in London at the Royal Albert Hall on Oct. 14.

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