Africa Day affirms growing respect for the continent

Idris Elba

Idris Elba, who hosted this year’s Africa Day concert. Africa Day is celebrated every May 25.

Photo credit: File

What you need to know:

  • Africa Day Concert 2021 hosted by Idris Elba was a follow-up to the largely successful Africa Day Benefit Concert At Home fundraising concert.
  • Last year’s concert raised funds to support food and health needs for children and families in Africa affected by the Covdid-19 pandemic.

By the time the Organisation of African Unity sat down to declare May 25, 1963 and every similar date afterwards as African Freedom Day, 35 of the current 54 African countries had already gained independence from colonial rule. Under the colonisers, the protectorates had to largely adapt to the foreigners’ ways of life, language and culture.

As the celebrations, including concerts and showcases by different sponsors, took off on Tuesday, one couldn’t help but just see the pride by all those who deem themselves African or with roots to the continent. Breaking the shackles that colonialists had put on Africans, emphasising negative feelings towards their cultural heritage, has been a long time coming.

Even though African pride is yet to reach its pinnacle, it is fast heading there. You could see from the number of hashtags on social media that Africa Day is catching on fast with the younger generation.

Africa Day Concert 2021 hosted by Idris Elba, a partnership between the UK actor (who has Ghanaian and Sierra Leonean heritages), YouTube and MTV Base, was a follow-up to the largely successful Africa Day Benefit Concert At Home fundraising concert held last year.

However, while last year’s performances (which included big names like Sauti Sol, Fally Ipupa, Davido, Burna Boy and Sho Madjozi) were live, acoustic set, this week’s performances was mainly a curation of songs by the artistes featured. What we saw was either different takes of shooting music videos or providing a video shoot for a popular song; for instance, Bahati’s “Wanani” song. It didn’t feel much like a concert but rather what the younger generation would call “a flex” on the money poured into the concept this time around.

Africa’s next wave of talent

Also, last year’s concert raised funds to support food and health needs for children and families in Africa affected by the Covdid-19 pandemic, with the World Food Programme and UNICEF who are supporting COVID-affected communities across Africa.

This year’s concert aimed to shine the light on Africa’s next wave of talent that are making their mark on the global stage. They included Zuchu (Tanzania), Omah Lay (Nigeria), Focalistic (South Africa) and Gyakie (Ghana) among others.

Facebook’s “Made By Africa Loved By The World” launched a series of short films unveiling the stories of eight phenomenal creatives and small business owners from across the continent who are breaking ground across the world.

The films, available on a microsite of a similar name and the official Facebook Africa page, provide a glimpse into the global successes of African creatives and businesses hailing from Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Gabon.

Kenya’s Blinky Bill and Sauti Sol were among the feted group that also includes fashion designer Lafalaise Dion (Côte d’Ivoire’s self-proclaimed “Queen of Cowries”, who donned Beyoncé with one of her cowrie shell head pieces for the singer’s video of “Spirit”), fashion designer and bespoke tailor Maia Atafo (Nigeria), and Mark Angel, the Nigerian comedian, scriptwriter and producer whose funny shorts on YouTube have seen him amass more than 15 million followers on Facebook.

Sports and world of fashion

From sports, to fashion, to music and dance, to art the African imprint is undeniable on the global page. The Charter for African Cultural Renaissance (2006) is probably the reason why the wave of African is where it is at today, to the point that Africa Day is gaining more worldwide recognition and celebration.

Without a doubt, the Cultural Charter for Africa adopted by the heads of states and Government of the OAU meeting in its Thirteenth Ordinary Session, in Port Louis, Mauritius in 1976 would start the whole exploration and expansion of African cultures to the world, mainly through literature, art and film.

As time wore on, however, sports and the world of fashion would also be used as springboards to further African pride as the likes Iman, Roger Milla, Kipchoge Keino, Manute Bol, Alpha Blondy, Lucky Dube and others became globally-recognised names. West, North and Southern African countries became forces to reckon with in different sports disciplines from the mid-80s onwards and more music from Africa was now being sampled to make global record hits.

The 2006 charter wanted focus shifted to asserting the dignity of African men and women as well as foundations of their culture. Promotion of freedom of expression and cultural democracy, an enabling environment for African peoples to maintain and reinforce the sense and will for progress and development was also envisioned. Hence, promotion of the African cultural heritage would be attained through its preservation, restoration and rehabilitation. 

There is a huge debate about this, but the rise and rise of Afro beats has played a major role in popularising African culture to the level it currently holds internationally. Even then, Black Panther was probably the first time we had a global celebration and unity as the African diaspora. George Weah’s Balon d’Or grab, Wangari Maathai’s Nobel Peace Prize win, Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar, Wizkid and Davido selling out the O2 arena, Zozibini Tunzi’s being crowned Miss Universe, and Trevor Noah being made the host of “The Daily Show” cement the fact that achievements, arts, culture and entertainment are very important when it comes to promoting cultures around the world.

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