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Yale Hosts Its Very First 'Africa Salon' With Angélique Kidjo, Just A Band, Jean Grae, Shingai Shoniwa & More

In March, Yale University hosted its very first 'AFRICA SALON' with Just A Band, Angélique Kidjo, Jean Grae, Shingai Shoniwa and more.

Last month Yale hosted its very first AFRICA SALON, a two-day event produced by the Yale Africa Initiative that featured a series of panels, readings, screenings, and performances by the likes of Just A Band, Jean Grae, 54 Kingdoms, Kae SunBibi Bakare-Yusuf, special guests Angélique Kidjo, The Noisettes' Shingai Shoniwa and others. Below, AFRICA SALON curator Ifeanyi Awachie shares her full recap from the weekend.


The SALON packed Yale’s Afro-American Cultural Center for two days of conversations with emerging and established artists from the continent and diaspora, topped off with a concert and after party. Attendees heard thinkers and practicing artists go head-to-head on topics like “The African Imagination and the Western Market,” a discussion on the role of Western validation in the production of contemporary African literature. Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, founder of progressive Nigerian publishing house Cassava Republic Press and a 2012 Yale World Fellow, led the discussion joined by Commonwealth Prize-winning writer and columnist Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and Kenyan writer Ivy Nyayieka, who was one of several "Yale Artists to Watch" (a distinction we created for the salon).

Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts produced a panel on contemporary African visual art. MoCADA Exhibitions Director Isissa Komada-John led the conversation “In Search of an African Aesthetic” featuring Zimbabwean multimedia artist Rebecca Aston (another Yale Artist to Watch), Nigerian visual artist ruby amanze, and photographer Laylah Amatullah Barrayn. We also partnered with the Johannesburg Pavilion Film Programme, a new platform by the FNB Johannesburg Art Fair, to screen four South African films in advance of their showing at this May’s Venice Biennale. New Haven-based Pan-African fashion house and six-time Africa Fashion Week participants 54 Kingdoms took a break from creating their distinctive luxury and casual pieces to talk about the inspiration and practicalities involved in producing modern African fashion.

More than 200 people filled Yale’s grand and cavernous Battell Chapel for the main concert. Ghanaian-Canadian musician Kae Sun opened the show and had the crowd on its feet with his most recent song “l o n g w a l k” and a few older favorites. Next up was FELA aKUsTIc, the new project from Fela! star Sahr Ngaujah and Ricky Quinones, who delivered stripped-down yet fervent reinterpretation of classic Kuti. South African-born rapper Jean Grae had the audience joining in on perhaps the first soul train line the chapel had ever seen. Kenyan headliners Just A Band brought Grae’s house party energy to the next level with their signature blend of house, funk and disco. Their set also included a brand new track, “Ambapo,” which may have hinted a new sound for the band.

The show ended with a surprise superwoman-powered finale featuring two unexpected guests: Angeliqué Kidjo and Shingai Shoniwa, the Zimbabwean-British frontwoman of rock outfit The Noisettes. The two joined Just A Band, Jean Grae, Sahr, and Kae Sun on stage for a cover of Fela’s “Lady.”

AFRICA SALON will be back at Yale in 2016. Find out more over here.

Interview

Interview: Wavy The Creator Is Ready to See You Now

The multidisciplinary Nigerian-American artist on tapping into all her creative outlets, creating interesting things, releasing a new single and life during quarantine.

A trip canceled, plans interrupted, projects stalled. It is six months now since Wavy the Creator has had to make a stop at an undisclosed location to go into quarantine and get away from the eye of the pandemic.

The professional recording artist, photographer, writer, fashion artist, designer, and evolving creative has been spending all of this time in a house occupied by other creatives. This situation is ideal. At least for an artist like Wavy who is always in a rapid motion of creating and bringing interesting things to life. The energy around the house is robust enough to tap from and infuse into any of her numerous creative outlets. Sometimes, they also inspire trips into new creative territories. Most recently, for Wavy, are self-taught lessons on a bass guitar.

Wavy's days in this house are not without a pattern, of course. But some of the rituals and personal rules she drew up for herself, like many of us did for internal direction, at the beginning of the pandemic have been rewritten, adjusted, and sometimes ditched altogether. Some days start early and end late. Some find her at her sewing machine fixing up thrift clothes to fit her taste, a skill she picked up to earn extra cash while in college, others find her hard at work in the studio, writing or recording music.

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