Baaba Maal, Tendai Huchu, Tosin Okojie headline line up for Southbank Centre’s Africa Utopia 2015

Southbank Centre’s Africa Utopia is back for a third time and explores what can be learnt and celebrated from modern Africa and the African diaspora. The festival investigates the arts and culture of one of the world’s most dynamic and fast-changing continents and looks at how Africa can lead the way in thinking about society, community, business and technology, fashion, gender, power, politics, sustainability and activism.

This year’s festival features some of the greatest artists from the African diaspora across music, dance, literature, and the visual arts, alongside a three-day programme of talks, debates and workshops. Southbank Centre’s spaces will be transformed by a myriad of free art installations, a buzzing indoor marketplace, family events, a celebration of African-inspired fashion, Afrikan yoga, dance, singing, craft and story-telling workshops. Also, for the first time at Africa Utopia, Pop Up Africa presents The African Street Food Takeover, over twenty stalls serving authentic African cuisine from across the continent.


Highlights include:

  • Headline gigs from living legend of afrobeat Tony Allen with star guests including Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté (Sun 13 Sep); Senegal’s mighty Orchestra Baobab, giving their first London show in three years, supported by Blick Bassy (Fri 11 Sep); and one of West Africa’s greatest singers Kassé Mady Diabaté (Sat 12 Sep);

  • The launch concert of Chineke!Europe’s first Black and Minority Ethnic classical symphony orchestra founded by Chi-chi Nwanoku MBE, including Elegy – in memoriam Stephen Lawrence by black British composer Philip Herbert and preceded by a participatory showcase from the Junior Chineke! Orchestra (Sun 13 Sep);

  • The Nest Collective presents the first readings outside Kenya of the true stories of the country’s LGBTQI community, The Stories of Our Lives, alongside a screening of the eponymous prize-winning film, banned in Kenya (Sat 12 Sep);

  • UK premiere of Star Boy Productions, an original performance about the migrant’s story of survival by acclaimed Belgium-based director Ahil Ratnamohan (Fri 11–Sat 12 Sep);

  • An extensive programme of talks and debates across the weekend curated by Hannah Pool, probing themes as wide-ranging as Aviation in Africa and Financing the Future to Migration, Being an African Man and Youth, Education & Power (Fri 11–Sun 13 Sep);

  • Speakers include Baaba Maal (co-founder of the first Africa Utopia), Nimco Ali (anti-FGM campaigner), Mariéme Jamme (technologist and founder of Africa Gathering), Victoria Moores (African Aerospace), Sunny Dolat (The Nest Collective), Feruz Werede (Network for Eritrean Women),  Vanessa Iwowo and Awol Allo (LSE), Afua Hirsch (Sky), Joseph Harker (The Guardian), girls’ rights campaigner June Eric-Udorie, film-maker Mojereoma Egunjobi, visual artist Larry Achiampong, and more (Fri 11–Sun 13 Sep);

  • Contemporary African fiction explored, from talks on Afrofuturism, Sci-Fi and African Pulp/Genre, to Migrations of the Mind, featuring authors Tendai Huchu, Bryony Rheam, Nikhil Singh, Tosin Coker, Maaza Mengiste, Jamal Mahjoub, Irenosen Okojie, and more (Sat 12–Sun 13 Sep);

  • Southbank Centre debuts from a new wave of African musicians including South African rapper, producer and film-maker Spoek Mathambo (Thu 10 Sep), Cameroonian Blick Bassy, currently making waves with his new album Akö, and Kenyan songstress Maia von Lekow (Fri 11 Sep);

Chineke! Orchestra. Photo credit: Eric Richmond

Chineke! Orchestra. Photo credit: Eric Richmond

  • The first UK solo exhibition of work by South African visual artist Dineo Seshee Bopape: slow -co- ruption (Hayward Gallery Project Space, 26 August – 27 September 2015);

  • New work by contemporary artists and designers presented across the site, including wall works from Phoebe Boswell and Lakwena Maciver, and a digital installation in partnership with Kenyan digital artist and founder of African Digital Art, Jepchumba (10–13 Sep);

  • A Hackathon for Gender Equality, led by Mariéme Jamme, of Africa Gathering (Fri 11–Sun 13 Sep);

  • Opportunities to party include African-influenced artists and DJs presented by Wormfood, featuring psychedelic Gnawa fusion from Electric Jalaba, a club night from African Head Charge, KOG and the Zongo Brigade and headliners Afriquoi – who launch their new album – and a late-night DJ set (Fri 11 Sep), plus an Afrobeats Club Night on the Clore Ballroom (Sat 12 Sep);

  • A day celebrating African-inspired fashion, featuring a fashion show curated by East London designer Samson Soboye and the return of the People’s Catwalk (Sat 12 Sep);

  • Performances across the weekend from Tiata Fahodzi Theatre, ADAD, Tavaziva Dance, Yomi Sode, Funmi Adewole, HomeBros, plus poet and women’s rights activist Jessica Horn presents The Love Mic with performance and dialogue from poets Amaal Said, Toni Stuart and Rich Blk and musician Matshidiso (Thu 10–Sun 13 Sep);

  • Free live music across the site, an African social dance, Afrikan yoga, dance, singing, storytelling and Afroretro craft workshops for all the family (Thu 10–Sun 13 Sep);

  • A buzzing indoor marketplace offering the latest in African inspired fashion, accessories, books, art and home-ware; and Pop Up Africa presents The African Street Food Takeover, over twenty stalls serving authentic African cuisine from across the continent (Fri 11–Sun 13 Sep).

Africa Utopia will run from September 10 to 13, 2015. For tickets and more information, please check out the Southbank Centre’s website.


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