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Carlow Celebrates Community through African Art

Dr Zélie Asava reports on the sixth Carlow African Film Festival

On the 15th and 16th of October, Carlow became the site of the most exciting film festival in Ireland right now, the African Film Festival. Now in its 6th year, the festival is about much more than film, or better put, it shows us how central art is to our entire lives. Through art we came together to share ideas, fashions, and cultures. Through art, children were opened to new worlds, and played with new friends. Through art, we thought about what it means to be Irish and what it means to be African. We thought about migration and integration. And we had a very, very good time, dancing, singing, laughing and enjoying life together.

Opened by the Minister for Integration Mary White, the festival showed some wonderful films, animation and fiction, from three corners of the continent of Africa. The outstanding feature was Soul Boy, from Kenya. This tale of hope, hard work and humility, set in a surreal slum, recalled the vibrancy and skill of Slumdog Millionaire. If you get a chance, see it. It’s a wonderful film, and a real inspiration to us all, both as a piece of art and as a piece that celebrates community, equality and love. Like the great South African film Son of Man, it is a story of faith and perseverance, filmed against the brilliant African sun. Soul Boy is entertaining, enlightening and a lot of fun.

The festival featured performers of all varieties. We were treated to the wondrous Kenyan storyteller Mara Menzies (see Toto Tales on-line – available for schools too), acrobatics courtesy of Hakuna Matata, Ugandan breakdancers in the film iMani, wonderful Q & A sessions with Nollywood stars Lancelot Imasuen and Yemi Black, and the star of stage and screen best known for playing Patrick on Eastenders – but whose pioneering career spans four decades and an OBE – Rudolph Walker (festival patron). We enjoyed comedy, dance, DJs, there was even a moment where we took over the stage and made it our own; a rag tag rainbow nation partying with the hip hop star John Zee (album out now).

The festival ended in what reminded me of a wedding party, in a local hotel. We partied till late in a room full of people of all ages and backgrounds, dancing with grandchildren and grannies. We talked. For once, we actually talked to each other, rather than simply sticking to our own. This, dear reader, is what I have always loved about my home, this tradition of talking to strangers and looking after people, realising that we are all part of the same community. It’s something that was becoming lost in the illusion of wealth that cast a shadow over us. Now the Nirish (Nigerian Irish) and the ‘new Irish’, are bringing our own traditions back. Carlow shone last weekend, and I have rarely felt happier at an event. Go to the 7th African Film Festival in October 2011, and you’ll see what I mean.

17 October 2010   


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