Afro Festival Held at the Museum of African Art in Belgrade

Marko Luis brought the atmosphere to a fever pitch

With the participation of African embassies in Belgrade, an Afro festival was held in the pleasant exterior of the garden of the Museum of African Art in Belgrade.

During the past weekend, several thousand visitors enjoyed the rich programs prepared by museum staff for lovers and admirers of African culture and art, and especially in the offer presented by African embassies. This year, the diplomatic missions of Algeria, Angola, Brazil, Egypt, DR Congo, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Somalia and Tunisia, as well as the consulates of Gabon, Jamaica and Namibia, participated.

Specially arranged stands where traditional African items, such as masks, fabrics, jewelry, spices, as well as culinary specialties that evoked the authentic spirit of Africa, attracted great interest from the audience. The festival also offered a rich artistic program, including an exhibition of the most successful works from the Impressions of Africa art competition and a fashion show of Nigerian brands organized in collaboration with the Embassy of Nigeria in Budapest and the association of Nigerian designers CEEWABA. Particularly attractive was the African turban tying workshop, which attracted a large number of visitors eager to learn this traditional technique.

The highlight of this year’s festival was the performance of local musician and singer-songwriter Mark Lewis. For two full hours, Marko performed numerous author’s and other compositions with which he pampered the audience and brought the atmosphere to a fever pitch, on an already too warm, true African afternoon.

On the second day of the festival, Durbar was held – the central and most solemn segment of the festival, a day of friendship, music and dance. On this day, Marija Aleksić, director of the Museum of African Art, Mohamed Amin Belhaž, doyen of the Group of African Ambassadors and ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco, Đura Likar, head of the Department for Africa and the Middle East of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Stanko Blagojević addressed the ceremony on the occasion of the new edition of the Afro Festival. , Assistant Minister of Culture for International Cooperation and European Integration.

Marija Aleksić, director of the museum, pointed out that “Afro festival has been gathering the museum and the wider public for more than two decades through popular and educational programs that promote African art and the protection of cultural heritage. During these days, the Museum of African Art turns into a veritable beehive for art lovers – it becomes a place of acquaintance, exchange of ideas and good mood fueled by the discovery of different forms of creativity that come from the African continent”.

H.E. Mohamed Amin Belhaj, doyen of the Group of African Ambassadors and ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco, said that “Afro Festival is a celebration of the African continent, its art, culture, fashion and, above all, the strong and lasting friendship and love between the people of Serbia and the people of Africa. A group of African ambassadors in Belgrade is pleased to participate in the activities of the Durbar, where we present the cultures of our beautiful countries. This festival, which is unique in Serbia and the wider region of the Western Balkans, since its establishment in 1997, serves as a gateway to our continent, welcoming thousands of our Serbian friends, especially young people, on the way to discover the African continent.”

Đura Likar, head of the department for Africa and the Middle East of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the Republic of Serbia is committed to improving cooperation with African countries. “In the past months, the foreign ministers of Eswatini, Angola, Ghana, the Central African Republic, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Togo visited the Republic of Serbia and met with the President of the Republic and other officials. We are also proud of the World in Serbia program, within which a large number of students from African countries study in Serbia,” Likar stressed.

Stanko Blagojević, Assistant Minister of Culture for International Cooperation and European Integration, officially opened the festival with his address, congratulating the team of the Museum of African Art, which, as he said, organizes a magnificent festival dedicated to African culture year after year. “The friendship that we and the peoples of Africa have established was born in a different world. The world has changed a lot since then, and what remains is our commitment to nurturing these relationships. The motifs on our folk costumes and rugs are similar to those on the shields and costumes of African peoples that you can see here today. I invite you to enjoy it,” said Blagojević.

During the festival, creative workshops were organized for the youngest visitors, such as painting murals inspired by ukara fabrics from Nigeria and Cameroon, hip-hop dance workshops and creating collages on the theme of imaginary trips to Africa. Visitors could also try their hand at mancala, one of the oldest mind games, and the skills of Capoeira Angola. The music part of the festival was especially exciting. The rhythms of Africa were brought to the festival by DJ Penn from Nigeria and Brazilian guitarist Nego Zambe. The dance performance of Donia Tembe Đurić from Mozambique added to the atmosphere, as did the rhythms of singidundun, jjembe and sabar drums performed by the percussionists of the Singidundun school. And the band Avalski put, made up of foreign students, mostly from Africa, who live and study in Serbia thanks to the World in Serbia project, received a big round of applause.

The special guests of the spectacular performance of Mark Lewis were the famous musician Maja Lewis and the multi-instrumentalist PetarZ, who often perform with Mark, together creating a real energetic funky-disco-Afro-Balkan party colored by the most diverse rhythms and melodies. At the request of the enthusiastic audience, Marko also performed several hits for an encore, and the special charm of the finale of this year’s festival performance was the moment when Marko Luis came down from the stage and on the grass, among the many visitors who sang along with him, and played the last track in accompanied by his son Dima, who is certainly growing into an exceptional perusionist.

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