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Warwick ACS presents #TheJourney: AFROFEST 2016

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To say I was blown away by Warwick ACS’ Afrofest this year would be an understatement. The talent exuded by this colourful carnival exploring the cultural experiences of Black British citizens was the most joyful and fulfilling event I have been to in a long time.

The theme this year was centred on the hashtag #TheJourney, and the show certainly followed a seamlessly scripted journey through the history of African and Caribbean migrants in the UK. The storyline linking all the acts followed Amma and Tyrone, along with Tyrone’s grandmother and her best friend, as they reminisced over old photographs from the Windrush migration of the 1940’s and 1950’s through to the Brixton riots of the 1980s and finally to the present day. The comedy of the mutual confusion in trying to understand each other’s generations was played out beautifully, and the memories of the two older characters were enacted through a series of lively and colourful acts encompassing all types of art.

Being a part of Afrofest was such an indispensable experience: we got to immerse ourselves further into the Warwick community and pay homage to African and Caribbean culture

Upon arriving at the Copper Rooms there was already a sense of festivity in the air. The inventiveness with which the lighting and sound system were utilised served to enhance the exuberance of the atmosphere. The acts varied widely but were united by the sheer quality and energy thrown into every single performance. First year performer Tosin Ajisafe talked about preparing for ACS’ biggest event of the year so far: “Being a part of Afrofest was such an indispensable experience: we got to immerse ourselves further into the Warwick community and pay homage to African and Caribbean culture. Given the current socio-political climate, Afrofest’s message was and is more pertinent than ever.”

There was no shortage of flair as one explosive performance followed the next. Vibrant dance routines had the crowd jiving and clapping along. Catwalks featured traditional dress side-by-side with clothing lines created by some of our very own students here at Warwick, such as ‘Isaac Kemdi’ created by second year student Tubo Adeaga and his longtime friend Okemdi Chukwu. The swelling harmony of the Afro-Caribbean choir rippled through the audience, creating a collective feeling of solidarity and contentment. All this was topped off by star performer Maleek Berry making a special appearance to close the show and bring the audience to their feet. Not being able to understand all the jokes did not detract at all from my enjoyment of the whole programme, as I learned more and more about the historical experiences undergone by those of Black British heritage.

The sheer polish and quality of the show’s overall construction were truly remarkable: Afrofest 2016 was a fiery, vivacious and moving celebration of black beauty, identity, history and culture

The comedy of the scripted performance contrasted beautifully with the most poignant (and to me the most powerful) performance of all. Three spoken word artists sent chills down the spine with the hurt and anger in their beautifully poetic display, backed by a haunting melodic choir refrain while the audience was flooded with even more performers chanting their indignation and pain at the oppression and prejudice their families and communities have historically faced. This created an immersive effect that mobilised the audience, inducing them to not only understand and sympathise, but feel moved enough to want to fight back too.

Speaking to other students who had attended multiple Afrofests in previous years, the general consensus seems to be that this year the team, including co-writers Adesola Akerele and Laura Adebisi, have staged a spectacle that has equalled if not surpassed the past feats achieved by Warwick’s immensely talented ACS members. The sheer polish and quality of the show’s overall construction were truly remarkable. Following on from Black History Month in October, and features in the Boar such as the recent article about projecting black beauty, Afrofest 2016 was a fiery, vivacious and moving celebration of black beauty, identity, history and culture. What wonders ACS has in store for us next year remain to be seen – but if this year is anything to go by, we’re once again in for a treat.

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