Saturday, June 25, 2011

Every Day is Stellar at the International African Arts Festival

Now in its 40th year, the International African Arts Festival (IAAF) has something to bring residents and visitors back each day to Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, July 1 through 4, 10 AM to 10 PM. Does music with “tomate y cilantro” bring shivers to your spine? How about House music all night long? Do dancers leaping like gazelles across a sunny savanna inspire you? Will wisdom wrapped in chuckles give you the bigger picture? Then Colonel Abrams’ Dance Party will start the party quickly July 1. Performer and social activist Phyllis Yvonne Stickney will drop the knowledge July 3 & 4; Orquesta Tipica ’73 will have skirts swirling to salsa and Forces of Nature Dance Company majestically closes the weekend July 4.

July 2 three stalwarts of West African traditions will be honored. Keeper of Akan tradition Nana Okomfohene Opare Dinizulu, folklorist and percussionist Baba Chief Bey, and past artistic director of the Ishangi African Dancers Baba Kwame Ishangi all of whom were artistic and cultural pillars of the International African Arts Festival who performed virtually every year. In fact, the Dinizulu African Dancers, Drummers and Singers and the Ishangi African Dancers will perform this day. When asked about Dinizulu’s legacy, Nana Adzua Opare “wishes that he was here to see that what he believed for the future has manifested.” Of Ishangi’s legacy Kemetic priest and business executive Heru Ur Nekhet describes Ishangi’s multifacets in terms “his mental store of African cultural facts, martial arts skills and his work to build a museum in Tangi, Gambia.” Each man must be respected for his dedication to sharing the beauty and power of Africa. All three traveled to the continent to share cultural gems. Neil Clark quips, “Baba Chief Bey had a way of taking the alien, exoticness from Africa, and making it as familiar as collard greens, potato salad and fried chicken.”

Celebrating 40, or Arobaini in Kiswahili, would not be complete at this festival without a tribute to the musician, social critic, and teacher Gil Scott-Heron. Scott-Heron who passed at age 62, May 27, 2011 remains an icon to musicians, spoken word artists and social activists. Scott-Heron performed at The East, Uhuru Cultural Center and previous IAAF. The Tribute to Gil Scott-Heron featuring The Last Poets and the Midnight Band is scheduled for July 3.

Commodore Barry Park is located near the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, bounded by Flushing Ave., Navy St., and Park Ave. Admission is free, but $3 donations for adults and $1 donations for children are needed.

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