After all the excitement of the Southbank’s Africa Utopia season, now the Royal Opera House is having a go – at the end of the month, Covent Garden will be taken over by ‘Africa Weekend’, aka Deloitte Ignite, a three-day festival of African music, dance, film, visual art, performance and more, curated by artist Yinka Shonibare MBE.
Following his hugely popular fourth plinth commission, Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle, Shonibare turned his attention to another London landmark, the Royal Opera House, where this summer he installed a sculpture on the side of the building called Globe Head Ballerina. I have yet to see it myself, so I can’t judge whether Shonibare has achieved his aim of bringing a ‘childhood sense of magic and wonder to the façade of the Royal Opera House’, but here’s a little preview:
Now, continuing his relationship with the ROH, Shonibare is curating the ‘Africa Weekend’, a ‘celebration of traditional African and avant-garde arts and culture, expressing Africa’s global contribution to the contemporary arts world’. There’s certainly a great programme lined up, and in contrast to Africa Utopia, it seems much more focused on listening, moving and watching rather than talking (i.e. more performances, less chat). I’m still a bit uncomfortable about the ‘let’s celebrate Africa’ vibe, but when festivals like this bring so many great artists and performers together in one place, it’s hard not to enjoy it… best of all, the daytime events are all free.
Visual art and film highlights include:
- Africa on the Piazza: open-air screenings of African films, from classic to contemporary, curated by Yinka Shonibare and John Akomfrah (founding member of the Black Audio Film Collective). Covent Garden Piazza, Saturday 1st Sept, 14.00-10.00
- Rotimi Fani-Kayode: photographs exploring gay African identities (which I enjoyed a lot when I saw them at Rivington Place a while back)
31 August – 2 September
Royal Opera House / Covent Garden – various venues.
Some evening events are ticketed. Daytime events are FREE, but also ticketed. Both free and paid-for tickets are available through the website.