Friday, July 12, 2024



Ethiopian artists are gearing up for the East African Cultural and Art Festival, June 15-22nd, planned as an annual event to be hosted in rotation among countries in the region. In line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Culture and Sports emphasize the impact such events may have towards transforming socio-economic development and integration of Africa. With three months of glorious rain and cool weather ahead, causing many to retreat for the season, the warm sounds and sights of music, dance, art and theater will be a treat for all. However, Sosina Wogayehu kicked of the kermt (rainy season) with a reception organized by the Embassy of Australia promoting her Ethiopian Circus Centre in Entoto. Sosina is a trailblazing mentor and motivator with a “… stellar career as a world-class, international, circus performer, contortionist and juggler…” according to Australia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, H.E. Ms. Julia Niblett, described Sosina, an Ethio-Australian, as an ‘inspiration to youth and example of commitment to improving lives through training and creating a corresponding business model to ensure sustainability for those who choose this profession’. The event hosted at Hyatt Regency Hotel brought attention to the need to support such initiatives spearheaded by the Diaspora, returning home as positive change agents.
Abroad the summer festival season is also in full gear with the Love Supreme Jazz Festival, known as the “largest outdoor jazz festival in Europe” kicking off July 1 with Dr. Mulatu Astatke amongst a list of other artists such as Erykah Badu, The Brand New Heavies, Ife Ogunjobi, and Cubaafrobeat. The list is long. Dr. Mulatu is well known worldwide, for his musical brand, Ethio-Jazz, which fuses the best of indigenous sounds with musical genres from jazz, funk and Ethiopian folk melodies. The first African to graduate from the renowned Berklee College of Music, he was given an honorary PhD by his alma mater, a nod to his continued influence on a new generation of music connoisseurs with his compositions. Maestro Mulatu ensures Ethiopia’s narrative, as a key contributor to culture, is maintained every time he steps on stage, dressed in his African attire emanating sounds of Africa and her Diaspora.
Reggae artists have also began summer concert tours and the Marley clan is booked from Europe to USA. Stephen Marley’s tour began in California this weekend with the colors of the imperial Ethiopian flag fully represented. The second son of Bob and Rita Marley, Stephen is a producer and writer penning some of the most prolific songs promoting Pan Africanism. In the reggae royalty’s song, Made in Africa, Stephen chants,
“Scholars and scientists now concede that Africa is the first place of mankind. Africans were the first builders of civilization.
They discovered mathematics, invented writing, developed sciences, engineering, medicine, religion, fine arts and built the great pyramids an architectural achievement which still baffles modern scientists.

They infiltrate our homes,
They call it as their own, Africa, Now, we must stand tall,
To break down all these walls.
How beautiful are thou, all nations have to bow, Africa don’t you fall from grace, You’re the secret place.”

Imagine, thousands of concert goers from all walks of life and socio-political orientation will be jamming to such lyrics. Passionate words which speak for billions of Africans and their descendants dispersed throughout the sixth region of Africa. In reality this is an example of soft power to influence minds and hearts into seeing the humanity of Africans. Through culture, ambassadors- at large for Africa are created. They share history, current affairs and the future of the continent through music and myriad cultural forms. Senegal, no stranger to cultural festivals hosted the First Festival of Negro Arts in 1966 under the auspices of President Poet Leopold Sedar Senghor. Ethiopia, Mali, Chad, Ivory Coast, Niger, Sierra Leone, Togo, Cameroon, Gabon, Zaïre, Congo, Zambia, Burundi participated. Top jazz musician Duke Ellington, dancer Josephine Baker, and poet Langston Hughes were in attendance. Almost 60 years later Senegal’s President Macky Stall, upholding the legacy of the arts through the 14th edition of the Biennale of African Art in Dakar, presented the grand prize of the contemporary art event to Ethiopian visual artist, Tegene Kunbi Senbeto. We have lots to celebrate and in the words of playwright Langston Hughes,

Lift your night-dark face,
Son of Sheba’s race!
Your palm trees tall
And your mountains high
Are shade and shelter
To men who die
For freedom’s sake
But in the wake of your sacrifice
May all Africa arise
With blazing eyes and night-dark face
In answer to the call of Sheba’s race:
Ethiopias free!
Be like me,
All of Africa,
Arise and be free!
All you black peoples,
Be free! Be free!”

Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.

Read more