This Labor Day weekend marks 25 years for the African Festival of the Arts, the largest neighborhood festival in Chicago.
The annual event will take place in Washington Park, 5100 South Cottage Grove Ave., from Friday to Monday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Attendees can listen to African drumming, purchase hand-crafted art and jewelry. There will be wellness workshops, programs for children, book readings and live entertainment. Entertainers vary from Grammy Award winning artists like Musiq Soul Child to international performers such as Salif K-eita. On Friday the stage opens at 10 a.m. and will give tribute to local Hip-Hop artists.
This year’s theme is Cultural Connection, said Patrick S. Woodtor, founder and executive director of Africa International House, Inc. and host of the African Festival of the Arts. The festival has always been a two-fold event. It exposes non-Africans to the culture and it operates as a networking/business opportunity for African entrepreneurs and artists.
“A whole lot has come from the festival, it’s like an incubator, helping business grow,” Woodtor said.
“Some of our vendors have become big businesses, many of the artists weren’t really doing art work until they came to festival,” he said.
This year, Woodtor said he has been reaching out to different African countries because he wants to extend the business opportunity to everyone, not just Africans living in the U.S. He wants to give them a chance to network and collaborate.
“Many people in Africa have a huge opportunity to sale their products here,” Woodtor said. “We want to make [the festival a] place to do business and a place globally recognized as a place where you can come and meet vendors from all around the world.”
There will several different designated areas where patrons can choose what they want to do. One pavilion will include quilting, another film. It wouldn’t be a festival without food and there will be plenty of savory items to choose from. Wolof rice from Senegal, jerk chicken, goat meat and fish from the Caribbean are just a few of the available dishes.
Advance tickets are $10 and $20 at the gate. Another option is 4-day weekend pass for $30. Discounted tickets are for children under 13 and seniors. Those are $5. Group discounts are available.