African Festival of Boston takes center stage at City Hall Plaza

Thousands of expatriates from Angola to Zimbabwe are expected to converge this Saturday, July 16 at City Hall Plaza for the second annual African Festival of Boston (AFoB). Massachusetts is home to around 80,000 African immigrants and last year’s inaugural festival attracted over 7,000 people to Government Center for a full day of entertainment, education, and celebration of cultural richness.

The 2011 AFOB, which is free and open to the public, will again showcase the continent’s diverse music, dance and dress through performances by local and internationally known African artists. From 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. the plaza will be ringed with African food, clothing and craft vendors and a kids’ tent, co-sponsored by the Children’s Museum, which will feature African-style face-painting.

However, the heart of the gathering is the extensive information fair which translates into action AFOB’s watchwords: “Promote – Unite – Educate – Legacy.”

The AFoB is the brainchild of Mireille Tushiminina, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRCongo), who works at Mass General’s blood transfusion department while pursuing her MD studies. This women’s rights activist is Co-Founder, Vice-President and Project Coordinator of the Boston’s Shalupe Foundation, which is sponsoring the festival.

Shalupe (which in French means “lifeboat”) focuses on promoting the welfare of war-deprived women and children in both in the USA and the DRCongo by connecting them with resources for shelter, education, career training, and health.

The day begins in earnest at noon with drum call mini-parade around the plaza: participants in their national garb and carrying their national flag will process in manner reminiscent of the Parade of Nations at the Olympics.

Among the entertainers performing in English, French, and/or African languages are Kina Zori (Mozambique / South Africa), Naomi Achu (Cameroon), GaelAmour (Gabon) and Dorchester’s own Silimbo D’Adeane West African Dance and Drum Company (Senegal).

Fresh off her appearance last Saturday at the Nigerian Youth Organization Summer Bash Cookout at Franklin Park, Offiong Bassey will be singing songs from her about-to-be-released album, including the cut “Efik Medley,” which Bassey explains “is a collection of Nigerian praise songs meant to uplift people and get them on their feet.”

Also sure to get the throngs moving is Manchester, NH’s Akwaaba Ensemble bringing the music and dance of Ghana. Finally the Boston-based “soukous” band, RumbAfrica (DRCongo), which won a Boston Music Award in1995 in the category of Outstanding World Music, will defend its claim to be “Boston’s premier African dance band.” More details are at africanfestivalboston.org.