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Africa’s Cultural Calendar 2014 | The Best African Art Events
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Africa’s Cultural Calendar 2014 | The Best African Art Events

Picture of Lilian Diarra
Updated: 9 February 2017
This year brings a number of exciting and diverse cultural events across the African continent, showcasing the best of African music, visual arts, literature, theatre and film. From Cape Town in South Africa, all the way up to Essouira in Morocco, our curated guide showcases what’s happening on Africa’s art and culture scene and guarantees a thorough overview of the best things to do this year.
© Matthew Mitchel

Cape Town’s International Jazz Festival, South Africa

1 – 2 April 2016

Described as ‘Africa’s Grandest Gathering’ and the largest music event in sub-Saharan Africa, the annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival has come a long way since its inception in 2000, welcoming over 40 renowned international and South African artists to Cape Town each year. This year, the festival’s five stages will feature international artists such as Erykah Badu, Haitus Kaiyote, and Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, and prominent South African artists including Mi Casa and Jimmy Dludlu. The festival’s electric atmosphere and world-class performances attract thousands of local and foreign music lovers, and tickets are sold out quickly. To ensure that no one is left out, the festival also hosts a number of free outdoor concerts in the historical Green Market Square before its official start.

Cape Town International Convention Centre, 1 Lower Long Street, Cape Town, South Africa.

Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), Zimbabwe

28 April – 3 May 2015

Showcasing the very best of local and international, famous and rising artists, HIFA is a six-day annual festival with an impressive multi-dimensional programme combining theatre, dance, music, circus, spoken word, visual arts, poetry, crafts and children’s workshops. HIFA seeks to use the arts to bring hope and positivity, and promote cultural integration in Zimbabwe, a country that has faced numerous socio-economic and political difficulties over the years. Past visiting artists have included Habib Koité, the Jimmy Hendrix of Africa, the soulful Ismael lo, new artists such as The Noisettes, alongside local stars such as Oliver Mtukudzi and Chiwoniso. Every year, the city of Harare comes alive as HIFA invades the city, taking place in various venues, and with the main stage nestled in the enchanting Harare Gardens in the city centre.

Various locations across Harare, Zimbabwe.

Bushfire Festival, Swaziland

27 – 29 May 2016

Founded in 2007, Bushfire Festival features an exciting non-stop medley of music, dance, poetry, art, and theatre. The festival also hosts an interactive creative hub, a global food village and a local handcraft market. With a philosophy deeply rooted in social responsibility, the proceeds of the festival are used to support local community development, and the festival calls on the community at large to ‘Bring their Fire’ and play their part in fostering a participative response for positive change. This year, over 20,000 people from the region and abroad will once again make their way to Swaziland’s magical Ezulwini Valley, and take part in this spectacular event. Early additions to the 2014 programme include Grammy Winners Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Zimbabwe’s most internationally successful young band Mokoomba, as well as celebrated Colombian group La 33.

Bushfire Festival, House on Fire, Ezulwini Valley, Swaziland.

Sakifo Musik Festival, Reunion Islands

5 – 7 June 2015

Each year, the Sakifo Musik Festival brings the very best international and local artists to over 40,000 music lovers on the tropical Reunion Islands. Living true to its name, Sakifo, which signifies ‘that’s what is required’ in Reunion Creole, the festival aims to do whatever is necessary to satisfy its diverse audience and provides an eclectic mixture of pop, rock, electro, French traditional music, blues, reggae, funk, African music, and Indian ocean music. With famous artists such as Manu Chao, Black Bazar and Salif Keita attending former editions of the festival, this year’s early bird confirmations include the highly popular Belgian artist Stromae and French artist Matthew Chedid known as ‘-M-‘.

Saint-Pierre, Reunion.

Gnaoua Festival
© Karim Tibari

Festival Gnaoua et Musiques du Monde, Morocco

14 – 17 May 2015

The Gnaoua et Musiques du Monde Festival is an unparalleled universal music event promoting the rich African legacy of Gnaoua rhythms and traditions, and stimulating a cultural dialogue between Moroccan and International artists. Featuring international funk, jazz, rock, reggae, blues, as well as African and traditional Gnaoua artists (descendants of slaves from sub-Saharan Africa), the festival attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators, who make their way to the coastal town of Essouria each year. With previous international artists such as Maceo Parker (USA) and Justin Adams (UK), Toumani Diabete (Mali), and Moroccan artists Maâlem Saïd El Bourki and Allal Soudani, this year’s festival will continue to celebrate and share its dynamic fusion of traditional, spiritual and modern music.

Various locations across Essouira, Morocco.

Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), Zanzibar

18 – 26 July 2015

Recognised as the largest film and arts event in East Africa, the Zanzibar International Film Festival offers a themed selection of extraordinary, high-quality African and international cinema. From feature films and documentaries to shorts and animation films, the festival also features a series of performances, discussion channels, workshops, exhibitions, live music concerts, cultural tours and workshops, making ZIFF an all-round cultural experience. This year’s theme is ‘A Common Destiny’, and the selection of films will be chosen depending on their power to ignite common experiences in their diverse audiences by reinforcing awareness of shared experiences, history and culture. ZIFF Winners from 2013 include No Problem: 6 months with the Barefoot Grandmamas (India), Golchehreh (Iran) and Nairobi Half Life (Kenya).

Ngome Kongwe (Old Fort), Zanzibar City, Zanzibar.

Bayimba International Festival of the Arts, Uganda

18 – 20 September 2015

First launched in 2008, the Bayimba International Festival of the Arts provides a fantastic overview of the finest music, dance, theatre, film and visual arts from both rising and well-known artists. Featuring artists from Uganda, East Africa and beyond, the festival has become a highly popular event in the region, attracting more and more people each year to the friendly, lively city of Kampala. Previous versions of the festival have included popular artists such as local favourite Bebe Cool, the Malian French duo Kouyaté and Neerman, German-born Palestinian percussionist Simona Abdallah and Nigerian/American singer Naira. This energetic three-day festival in the heart of Uganda guarantees a remarkable experience with an optimal selection of local and international music.

Various locations across Kampala, Uganda.

Lake of Stars Arts Festival, Malawi

25 – 27 September 2015

The Festival of the Lake of Stars is one of the best known and loved African festivals, and every year the festival features dozens of artists from Malawi and the rest of the world. For the past two years, Lake of Stars was moved to the capital city Lilongwe, but this year, the three-day festival will return to the palm-lined, surreal shores of the majestic Lake Malawi. The festival has a strong focus on promoting local artists, so this year it welcomes Malawian artists Skeffa Chimoto and Peter Mawanga. More than just a music event, the festival is packed with creative activity and showcases film and theatre, comedy, crafts and local food, giving international and regional visitors yet another reason to visit this beautiful country, fondly referred to as the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’.

Lake Malawi, Malawi.

By Lilian Diarra