Cover Story

African Festival of the Arts – Chicago – 2016


“Egungun Ancestor”, by Adedayo Laoye Oil on Canvas, 1998 From the Dixon School Art Collection, Chicago, IL

The African Festival of the Arts announces Rose Royce and Howard Hewett to headline ‘togetherness’ celebration

Monday headliners join stellar entertainers from across the African Diaspora

(CHICAGO) – The African Festival of the Arts (AFA) has announced a stellar lineup of entertainment led by its Labor Day headliners Howard Hewett and Rose Royce.

Hewett and Rose Royce will take the stage Monday evening, Sept. 5th. Held each Labor Day weekend in Chicago, the Festival offers the best in entertainment from around the world, and this year is no exception.  From Sept. 2-5 in historic Washington Park, these headliners are just one element of the renowned festival that offers a glimpse into the many unique treasures of the African Continent including African-centered offerings from across the globe.

Rose Royce ascended to the top of the Soul music world with a string of hits and a tight, full sound that rivaled many of the best self-contained soul and funk groups of the era.  Formed by trumpeter-vocalist Kenny Copeland; drummer Henry Garner; trumpeter Freddie Dunn; and keyboardist Michael Nash in the mid 70s, the group first served as a backup band for Edwin Starr, who introduced them to his War producer, Norman Whitfield.


Rose Royce

With his silky smooth, straight-from-the-heart soulful style, Howard Hewett is gifted with one of the most instantly recognizable voices in contemporary music. A writer for Rolling Stone magazine once described him as “the premier vocalist in the post-Marvin Gaye era of romantic pop.”

The theme of this year’s festival is Ruwadzano, which means ‘togetherness’ in the East African language of Shona in Zimbabwe. During this year’s event, Africa International House (AIH) will recognize the impact togetherness has in relationships, in business, and in service to community by recognizing those who embody the concept. This year’s Grand BaBa is WGN’s Robert Jordan and the Grand YeYe is Diane Dinkins-Carr.

Additionally, Africa International House will host a gala on August 20th at the Gabriela, 4315 S. Cottage Grove, where they will recognize the Grand Yeye and Grand Baba.  For information on tickets, call 773-955-ARTS.

Known for its themed entertainment featured on two stages each day of its four-day run, this year, Friday night will be Chicago Dance Night featuring tunes chosen especially for Chicago steppers; Saturday night is Juju Night with Nigerian musician Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey.  He will be joined by Angel ‘d Cuba and the EPA! AfroColombian Band; Sunday will feature singer/composer Dee Alexander and the Evolution Ensemble, part of Chicago’s Best Night, a line-up of area talent.


Dee Alexander, one of Chicago’s premier jazz vocalists, headlines an all Chicago lineup on the main stage Sunday

The African Festival of the Arts is one of the largest, and longest running festivals in the Midwest focused on African art and culture, and each year draws tens of thousands of people to Washington Park.  The AFA is a four-day immersion into African culture and heritage as Chicago’s historic Washington Park is transformed into an authentic African village.  Over 300 vendors and artisans will present artifacts, textiles, traditional crafts, and museum-quality art.  Enjoy the African-influenced food, music, and dance traditions during an entertainment rich, family-focused celebration unlike any other in the Midwest.

The Festival boasts five distinct areas each representing a center of culture and commerce on the African Continent:  Nubia (fine arts); Kush (wearable arts); Songhay (African arts & crafts, collectibles and natural products); Timbuktu (African fabric and fashions); and Bank of the Nile (food court).

There will be pavilions highlighting South African wines, health & wellness and fine arts. Pavilions include: Spiritual Pavilion Quilting Pavilion; David Durojaiye Olupitan African Heritage Pavilion; Author & Book Pavilion; Drum Village; Dr. Nurudeen Olowopopo Health & Wellness Pavilion; and the Bernice Gardner Children’s & Family Pavilion.

Master African drummer, Olu Shakoor, founder and conductor of the African Drum Village, specializes in both traditional and contemporary styles of African Drumming and excels in the Djum-Djum and Djembe Drum.

African Fest Drum VillageFor those wanting to sample the tastes of Africa, you can dine on dishes in the tradition of Nigeria, Senegal and the Caribbean, as well as Cajun and Southern soul.  But, the real stars of the Festival are the fine arts and the artists who make them—be they painters, sculptors, jewelers, or wood carvers.

Founded by Liberian-born business leader Patrick S. K. Woodtor, the African Festival of the Arts has become a national destination point for those seeking to immerse themselves in the African culture.  Each year, tens of thousands attend the four-day event from across the U.S.African Fest Marketplace

Woodtor founded the African Festival of the Arts as an outgrowth of his art shop, Windows to Africa, and he, along with his board of directors, have grown the event into a Labor Day staple.  In all these ways, the Festival gives attendees a glimpse of Africa without the need for plane tickets and for less than the cost of applying for a passport.

Tickets are $15, in advance, and $20 at the gate.  There are discounts for seniors, as well as four-day and VIP passes.  Children under five are free. Learn more by visiting and clicking on African Festival.  Follow us on all social media using the hashtag #AFAChi.

Twitter: @AfricanFestChi

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