The French speaking African culture is closer than most Atlantans realize. Instead of learning about the culture from television, reading about it or even making a trip to Africa, the Alliance Française d’ Atlanta’s widely attended AfricaBelle Festival can enlighten one’s curiosity on the culture and its people right here in Atlanta.
For the entire month of April the AfricaBelle Festival will not only serve as a celebration for French speaking Africans but as an outlet for French speakers to mingle and socialize as a means of connecting their culture with the Atlanta community.
“We wanted something really fun. We wanted it to be light and fun yet we wanted to educate people,” said Obsé Ababiya, Director of Outreach and Development for Alliance Française d’ Atlanta.
“We also wanted to provide a venue for the African French speaking community in Atlanta to present their work and by the same token we wanted to present that culture to the general community in Atlanta.”
The AfricaBelle Festival will host its third annual community and cultural celebration during the month long celebration which began April 10 and runs through April 27. It will provide free and ticketed cultural events to expand the perception of Africans while celebrating their culture through art, food and fellowship.
“This is a brain child of the executive director, Hélène Touré. She wanted a series of events focused on Africa,” said Ababiya. “It started it out with just one event but then we ended up with a series. It just exploded. We thought it would be just a one-time thing but no, there is a demand for it. So we kept doing it. Now it’s our third year.”
Supported in part by the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs and presented in partnership with the High Museum’s Friend of African Art, this years’ festival will focus on African fashion and identity. The High Museums’ Friends of African Art will promote the “Symmetry/Asymmetry: African Textiles, Dress and Adornment” exhibition funded by the Fred and Rita Richman Special Initiative Endowment from March 23 thru August 25.
“The High often partners with the Alliance Française but this is the most extensive High/AF program related to African art,” said Carol Thompson the Fred and Rita Richman Curator of African Art at the High Museum.
Thompson, who met Ababiya years ago when taking French classes to prepare her for a visit to Burkina Faso, is an example of how connected the African and French speaking community is and how much a part of the Atlanta community they are and can be.
“The hardest part about this festival is, really not knowing exactly which African groups to promote our events to,” said Ababiya. “A lot of it is done through word of mouth.”
“The other problem is there isn’t a French-speaking African consulate in town. There isn’t one unit body that organizes everybody; there isn’t a database of people’s mailing list,” she added.
Statistically, there are approximately 136 million people who speak French worldwide. More than 90 million of those French speakers live in Africa. It is significant information like this that is often unknown by people who have never been introduced to the culture.
The Alliance Française d’ Atlanta, founded in 1912, offers French language lessons in addition to cultural exchange programs that promote the French culture.
The Alliance Française is an independent, non-profit organization. It serves the community by encouraging the study of the French language and its cultures while fostering cultural, intellectual and artistic interactions between the French-speaking world and local communities.
“Because of this same language that they all share, there is a culture. Even if each culture is different, because they share the same language it makes communication easier. You speak the same language, you are like home,” said Ségolène de Marolles, Marketing and Communication Director at the Alliance Française d’ Atlanta.
Most of the AfricaBelle events will be at the Alliance Française, which is located at 1197 Peachtree Street, Colony Square, Plaza level, Suite 561 in Midtown.
Below is a schedule of events for Africa Belle 2013.
Film & discussion: Pièces d’identité
Wednesday April 10 @ 7pm: $10
African Storytelling and Arts & Crafts for Children
Saturday April 13 at 10am to 13 pm for children
Children 6-12 years old: $5 parents/guardian: free
Cultural Workshop: “Fashion & identity in Zanzibar, the Paris of the Swahili coast” by Sidney Kasfir, Professor Emerita, Art History Department, Emory University
April 24 at 7pm @ the High Museum of Art: Free
AfricaBelle Community Soirée
April 27 at 7pm to 11pm, student $15- AF members: $20- Non-members: $25.
Art Exhibit: Symmetry/Asymmetry: African Textiles, Dress, and Adornment. “Meet the collector: Michael Mack”
@ the High Museum of Art, Skyway Gallery, Wieland Pavilion at 6:00pm to 7:00pm, fee: $10
For more details on the AfricaBelle Festival and for reservations, visit afatl.com.