A showcase of African talent and creativity through music, arts and entrepreneurship drew crowds from the local Islington community and further afield to Ringcross Community Centre in north London in August.
Designed to promote cultural exchange and understanding between communities, the Go Africa Cultural Festival was organised by Anemp & Co Solutions Ltd on 17 August 2019, an events management and planning Company that also owns the Fashion4Africa brand.
“Go Africa is a movement to mobilise the African & Caribbean creative communities, particularly those in the north London area, to come together to showcase talent, art, culture and education,” said Anna Njie, founder of the festival. “The annual summer community-led cultural festival brought together a wealth of local and national talent with African heritage showcased for over 12 hours and for all ages and genres of our communities.”
The event secured support through the Mayor of London through its Culture Seed Programme called Africa In London, and the north London charity The Pilion Trust. Special guest Somali-born The Worshipful the Mayor of Islington, Councillor Rakhia Ismail.
Cllr Ismail explained that she came to England as a refugee in the 80s and despite English being her second language was able to rise up the ranks to first become elected to Islington Council in 2012.
“In the beginning, you will get help but when you want to aim higher, the doors are closed,” she said.
She has worked for over 20 years in the voluntary sector and is also the founder of Back 2 Basics Create, a charity supporting hard to reach women and mothers.
“Africa is one of the greatest continents in the world,” she told visitors to the Go Africa event. “Africa is so rich in minerals, culture and history. We need to think about where we come from and where we are heading,” she said. “Lots of young people in England who are Africans, from the West Indies to the African continent, have lost their identities. It is up to us to instil that identity. If we don’t do it, believe me, I do not know why we are all here.”
The festival featured a marketplace of independent businesses promoting everything from health and beauty products to African-inspired jewellery. “The marketplace was designed to be a one-stop shop where people can buy original and first-hand handcrafts, natural skincare products,” Anna added. “For art lovers there was a big African art gallery from Shallman Art selling powerful landscape paintings to acrylic on canvas.”
Interaction was key at this event and entrepreneurs had the opportunity to share how they had positively challenged adversity and channelled their creative passions to produce something that others could benefit from.
This included words from Carol Moses, the founder of Portabello Toms, who produces charm bracelets, gemstones, chakra beads and healing stones. These products were her way of honouring the memory of her daughter who she lost meningitis.
Aspiring writers got a chance to hear from best-selling author Danielle Blechner of Conscious Dreams Publishing. She talked about her journey of determination from being an aspiring writer to a celebrated writer and publisher. Would-be writers were invited to connect with her and meet other writers, including 13-year-old novelist M. Angel, who had taken the step to becoming professional writers.
Visitors tried their hands at cake decorating during the Healthy Cup Cake workshop by Toyah Ajalah of Visioncreationz, and KeKeli drummers staged a drumming workshop with performances from dancers.
Fashion4Africa 2019 award winner Massassi Batique used the platform to celebrate the strides made in African design and treated guests to a mini fashion show on the day.
Children benefitted from face painting sessions and organisations After My Kind and Murray The Milkman were on hand to support young adults and children with workshop sessions on promoting positivity.
Where there was entertainment and a range of African foods available for meat eaters and vegetarians, including grilled spicy pepper chicken & jollof rice to be washed down by homemade sorrel and ginger juice.
Music during the event came from a variety of sources. At the beginning of the event included sounds from Ethiopian singer Hanisha Soloman. The evening procession included a live performance by Mosi Conde, with Virtuoso Kora Play and singing from Guinea’ in collaboration with Sudanese Jazz flutist Ghandi Adam and percussion by Diallo. If that was not enough a performance followed by South African composer and musician Lucien Windrich and the eVoid Band; James PB vocalist and guitarist from Emo funk band Little Things; Brendon Pickett on piano and keyboard with the band Full Action Family; Mona Daniel, drummer and percussionist of African Dance Company Adzido, and Eritrean born singer Betty Alehayehu.
“Go Africa” will be an Annual Summer Community led cultural festival organised by British-born Gambian, Anna Njie with various collaborations including The Pilion Trust.
The Fashion4Africa project supports emerging models and fashion designers of African origin in the UK and Africa through mentoring, training and development projects funded by fundraising events like fashion shows, designer competitions and The Face of Fashion4Africa modelling competition.
The project debut was in 2010 with Somali Samira Hashi crowned the catwalk queen. Since then, successive winners have included beauties originating from Ghana, the Gambia, Nigeria and Uganda.