The 2023 AfroFutureFest Festival in Accra, Ghana is ready to once again celebrate the best of African arts, culture and heritage.
When Ghanaians Abdul Karim Abdullah and Kenny Agyapong founded AfroFutureFest in 2017, there was a glaring lack of representation of African arts, culture and lifestyle at most of the world’s major festivals. Seven years into their pan-African mission, they have managed to do much more than fill a gap.
Formerly known as Afrochella, AfroFutureFest has become so popular that it is now considered to be outshining its US counterpart, Coachella. African Americans continue to flock to the coastal city of Accra in Ghana each year, as they seek to connect with like-minded enthusiasts via African music, cultural exchanges and artistic endeavours.
American revellers of all races, backgrounds and life experiences continue to make up the majority of attendees, as the gathering is an inclusive space that creatively celebrates African fashion, traditional dances and the continent’s history.
Other visitors to Ghana who identify as Latinos, Hispanics and mixed race frequent the commemoration of all things African. This is due to African wares and its people impacting all parts of the world in some way or other.
From modern hip-hop infused with Afrobeats to the use of traditional musical instruments such as the djembe drum in pop music, very few creative outlets globally can claim not to be inspired by Africa and its way of life. A-list musicians including the UK’s Jorja Smith and US R&B vocalist Usher Raymond have dabbled in the phenomenon of the world’s youngest music genre, Amapiano.
Last year’s show was headlined by the first African to sell out an American stadium and the first Nigerian performer to headline Madison Square Garden, Burna Boy. Just as popular was fellow countryman, Asake, whose infectious up-tempo Afro and Amapiano productions keep surpassing all sorts of records on streaming platforms and music charts.
Other entertainers from the 2022 outing included Ghana’s King Promise and Beninese Ayra Starr. South African stars were also-part of the line-up, as the likes of Daliwonga and Young Stunna represented the southern-most tip of Africa. British-Ghanaian artist Juls also performed for the eclectic crowd.
A diversity in African music is the main reason AfroFutureFest has cemented itself as part of the country’s exuberant cultural calendar, but there is so much more for pleasure seekers. Brightly coloured fashion, intriguing accessories such as modern takes on traditional Kenyan nose rings, and multiple wooden slivers inserted into earlobes – Senegal style – lead on the jewellery front.
AfroFutureFest is one of the places where there is no such thing as going overboard on your appearance. The ideal of AfroFuturism – an expression of black identity through creative works, activism and science fiction themes – freely encourages that African garb is limitless.
Kanzus, which are white or cream African traditional garments worn by men in the Africa Great Lakes region, can be complemented by metallic face accessories, inspired by ancient Africans who wore them to keep away evil spirits.
African body art is also highlighted as revellers use clay from dried plants and flowers to create the most dazzling white face paintings known to symbolise light, purity and hope. Face-painting artists throughout the duration of the festival also use rhinestones to add sparkle to the gathered crowd’s fashion ensembles, staying on brand with the Afrofuturism concept.
Showstopping African hairstyles – complete with essential accessories such as head scarfs, cuffs, hair sticks, Afro hair elastics and wooden beads – are always in fashion as the heritage of Africa is showcased in the most creative ways. Bold lips, intricately curated nails that tell Afro-positive stories, panel discussions and a myriad of home-grown fashion and beauty brands ensure that creative entrepreneurs have a bright and prosperous future.
Food is another way African culture is manifested at AfroFutureFest, as ingredients and recipes from around the world are always on offer. These culinary creations have been infused across the globe, leaving aromatic and flavourful imprints in European, American, Caribbean and Latin dishes.
Drawing from a chequered past where African slaves were forcibly moved to nations such as Brazil and Jamaica, these African ancestors preserved their way of cooking, thus contributing to the flavour palettes of foreign lands.
At AfroFutureFest, similarities can be easily noticed in offerings such as the Ghanaian rice dish Waakye, and the West Indian dish of rice and peas. Plantain is also a staple in many African dishes, and this fruit has found its way to Carribean plantain cakes and Jamaican meat pies.
African art is one of the highlights at AfroFutureFest, as its diversity and richness encompass many artistic expressions. The event is a melting pot of visual, performing, literary and abstract art. Larger-than-life stilt dancers from Trinidad and Tobago with their menacing costumes form part of the cultural exchange at the festival. Their history traces back to West African countries where villagers would use the height provided by stilts to watch over their communities.
The festival also transforms the streets of Accra into a sensory open-air gallery, featuring lively street art, towering murals and art installations by local and international artists.
Ready for 2023
Like in previous years, this year’s AfroFutureFest aims to celebrate and promote African heritage by providing a platform for local and international artists to showcase their talents and share their visions.
AfroFutureFest 2023 is taking place from 27 December 2023 to 5 January 2024 in Accra, Ghana. Inspired to visit Ghana? SAA flies between Johannesburg and Accra three times a week. Visit flysaa.com