Jimi King on African Fashion and Art

September 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

Jimi King

Jimi King

You can’t call Jimi King a “fashion designer,” even though he is quite a successful one. You can’t really call him an “African artist” either, even though he is an artist, and most definitely a proud African. Like many individual artists in the art and fashion world, Nigerian artist Jimi King is uncomfortable with labels. “I don’t like to be boxed in,” he revealed in an interview with Afrofusion TV on a recent visit to the Washington, DC area during his 2016 summer tour. Given the length and breadth of his experience, it’s understandable. In addition to fashion (wearable art, as he calls it) King does painting, sculpture and music (drumming). He has been a regular in Paris at the UNESCO Africa Week and Bazaar for the past five years, and participated in Africa Fashion Week London during the « Read the rest of this entry »

Reparations, Race and Religion at 10th African Diaspora International Film Festival

August 28, 2016 § Leave a comment

This year the African Diaspora International Film Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary in Washington, DC at the Marvin Center on the campus of George Washington University. Over the course of three days, from August 19-21, the festival showed narrative and documentary feature films and short films from just about every corner of the African diaspora. The biographical documentary BadddDDD Sonia Sanchez, (2015) shared the opening night with another movie, Discipline. Noted Black Arts Movement poet Sonia Sanchez herself was in attendance together with one of the film’s directors Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, for a Q&A which was followed by a VIP reception where attendees

Sonia Sanchez (right) takes questions with the director of BadddDDD Sonia Sanchez, Sabrina Schmidt Gordon

Sonia Sanchez (right) takes questions with the director of BadddDDD Sonia Sanchez, Sabrina Schmidt Gordon

got to mingle, take photos with, and get autographs from Ms. Sanchez. The closing night films focused on celebrating the African religions still vibrant in Brazil and Cuba. Oggun, an old classic by Afro-Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando and Yemanja: Wisdom from the African Heart of Brazil, (2015) directed by Donna Roberts, who participated in a lively Q&A after the film’s screening. « Read the rest of this entry »

In “Baobab Flowers,” African diaspora women challenge Education Inequality

June 2, 2016 § 1 Comment

BF Still

In the ever changing world of filmmaking, from the technologies used in its creation to the way we view the end product, a few things remain constant. For artists of color the world over, especially those of African descent, one of these is the importance of telling our own stories. Brazilian filmmaker Gabriela Watson obviously takes this very seriously; in her new documentary film Baobab Flowers, she tackles the problem of education inequality from an African Diaspora perspective by following two women high school teachers in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Philadelphia, USA. It is a film that seeks to show the endemic  problem of low quality education in underserved black communities worldwide by focusing on two unrelated women who are nonetheless similar in their approach to teaching and to their relationships with their students, and also in their struggle to overcome such abject inequality. « Read the rest of this entry »

African Arts and Fashion on Display in DC

May 26, 2016 § 4 Comments

AA Fashion Showcase_

AAFWDC Founder Uche Ibezue (l) with Maria, makeup artist.

When Uche Ibezue of Omak Designs started African Arts and Fashion Week DC, her idea was not simply to bring attention to the nation’s capital as a fashion force. Grabbing the attention of the fashion market, both national and global, was an abiding aspiration. Last week, the third annual AAFWDC featured a panel discussion and fashion showcase, and many of the burning issues regarding African fashion were raised.

A few years ago it was nice to see a number of celebrities wearing African print designs to red carpet events worldwide. Famous names like Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Solange Knowles and her sister Beyonce, Angela Simmons, and even Gwen Stefani were all spotted in gowns and complete sets that were made from African prints like Ankara and Kente. The popularity of those designs has since trickled down to the young ones, the rebellious youth that are always finding innovative ways of expressing themselves. In that vein, a young lady “broke the internet” when she created a stunningly beautiful African print gown, posted it on Instagram, and « Read the rest of this entry »

Bodoma Garifuna at the Afro-Latino Festival NYC 2015

July 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

Bodoma Garifuna perform their traditional Garifuna music and dance at the the Afro-Latino Festival NYC

Bodoma Garifuna performs their traditional Garifuna music and dance at the the Afro-Latino Festival NYC

It was the first time the Afro-Latino Festival NYC 2015 had been held over a three-day period, but it was just as well, because Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn were all a part of a joyous coming together of Latin Americans celebrating the diversity of Afrodescendente culture. Afrofusion TV made it to Brooklyn on the last day of the festival to capture some scenes for our upcoming segment on Afro-Latino identity, and we were pleased to find a group from Honduras called Bodoma Garifuna Culture Band on the billing. Our interest in the Garifuna goes beyond what we need for our African Diaspora series, though. I’ve always been interested in learning more about Garifuna, a group descended from West and Central Africans, Island Carib, and Arawak peoples that live mostly in the Central American coastal areas of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua. Diaspora Garifuna communities can « Read the rest of this entry »

A Bunny Mack Retrospective: Sierra Leone’s Music Icon

July 15, 2015 § 2 Comments

"Let Me Love You" single cover

“Let Me Love You” single cover

Let’s just be honest: “Let Me Love You (My Sweetie)” by Bunny Mack has one of the funkiest bass lines ever laid down on a dance track. Composed by Bunny Mack (producer Akie Deen shares writing credits on the song as well), it was a continuation of a style of music he had developed with Deen, where he fused disco with calypso, African and funk grooves. “Let Me Love You (My Sweetie)” became one of the biggest African releases; it made the British pop charts in early 1980, reaching Number 76, and cracked the top 10 dance chart there, where it stayed for about 4 weeks. With its slamming bass line and infectious chorus, the melodic tune became a dance classic throughout the African diaspora, generating in the process a certain confusion about who sang it and which country it originated from. Play it for virtually anyone from the African diaspora, and the odds are that they have either partied to it, or played it themselves if they are DJs. When an African American friend asked me excitedly a few years back if I had heard “this new African song” as she put it, and sang “Let Me Love You,” I had to patiently inform her it’s old, but it’s a classic, and that’s why it seems new.

Bunny Mack with Akie Deen (Photo credit:Sewa News)

Bunny Mack with Sierra Leonean music producer Akie Deen

It has been a few decades now, but I do remember well when Bunny Mack was interviewed by a radio show host back in either late ’79 or early ’80s Sierra Leone. This was fascinating to me because I had never really considered Sierra Leone music in terms of solo artists. We had a bunch of semi-successful bands with decent hits, like Afro National, Sabanoh 75 and Supercombo, and each had solid musicians that were very talented in their own right. But the last really « Read the rest of this entry »

Examining the Intricacies of Afro-Latino Identity

July 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

Milena Carranza, Dash Harris and Gabriela Watson in discussion at Intersections of Afrolatinidad

Milena Carranza, Dash Harris and Gabriela Watson in discussion at Intersections of Afrolatinidad in Focus

Across cultures, darker people suffer most. Why?” That question, displayed on one of Andre 3000’s costumes from the Outkast Tour, may well have been tugging at the United Nations when they declared 2015-2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent. The resolution pledged that it would work harder to fully recognize the contributions of people of African descent to global society, to encourage and promote inclusiveness, and to vigorously combat racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia. As Afrofusion TV prepared a segment on Afro-Latinos as part of our African Diaspora series, we found that this group has had varied success in fighting some of the battles outlined in the UN resolution. Less than 4% of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans ended up in North America; the vast majority was brought to the Caribbean and Brazil. The study of Afro descendants in the Americas, their culture, and their struggle with identity led us to the work « Read the rest of this entry »

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