African Festival of the Arts Celebrating 30 years in Chicago

Africa International House will host its 30thannual African Festival of the Arts Friday-Monday, Aug. 30-Sept. 2. The event turns the festival grounds at Washington Park into an African village with the theme Spirit of Africa.”

Patricia Andrews-Keenan, who handles communications for Africa International House and the African Festival of the Arts, said that celebrating this milestone is significant.

“It is a validation of the importance of the African culture to the city of Chicago,” she said. “When we started this event, there weren’t any festivals in the city that celebrated African culture and heritage.  Now, there’s the Bantu Fest, Ghana Fest and all of these different festivals, but the African Festival of the Arts was the first of one of these.”

Among the featured guests and musical acts are the Ohio Players, the 1970s pioneers of street funk and underground Rhythm and Blues; Damon Williams, of the Tom Joyner Morning Show; Sheila O., an Africa International House board member and an international radio personality; Rotimi, a Nigerian-American actor, singer and model; and Wale, the rapper.

“I think the entertainment is one of the hallmarks of this event,” Andrews-Keenan said. “When you go back and look at the 30-year history, everybody from Isaac Hayes to James Brown—some of the best entertainers in the country—have come to this over the years. That’s a big draw for people.”

The festival will provide opportunities to explore the interactive spaces of its Afro-Folk Village, Children and Family Pavilion, African Heritage Pavilion, African Spirituality/Wellness (Health) Village, Author and Book Pavilion, Fine Art Pavilion, Food Court and the African Marketplace. Andrews-Keenan said some vendors have been part of the festival since the beginning. “They come from across the country; they come from the Caribbean; they come from Africa,” Andrews-Keenan said.

Ahead of the festival’s 30thanniversary, Africa International House has several special events and surprises for people to watch out for. Those include:

A program dubbed the Evolution of African Dance, will take place from 2-6 p.m., July 27, at Navy Pier’s Lake Stage in Polk Brothers Park.

The annual African Festival of the Arts gala will take place August 16 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.

The African Festival of the Arts will be open to the public during Labor Day weekend from 1-10 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday through Monday.

General admission begins at $15, and tickets at the gate cost $20. Discounted rates can apply for seniors and children. Family and weekend passes are also available for purchase. For tickets, visit

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