The African Association of Madison (AAM) will host its 18th annual “Africa Fest” this Saturday, Aug. 13, at Central Park on Madison’s near east side. The festival will have great food, music, dancing, storytelling, artists, and educators who will be representing the diverse cultural traditions of Africa and the African diaspora.

The theme of this year’s family-friendly event will be “Building and Bridging Communities.” Aggo Akyea, chair of the board of directors of AAM, wants this year’s “Africa Fest” to expose visitors to the history and people of Africa.

“We want to show the community and our neighbors who we are and where we come from,” Akyea tells Madison365. “We are real human beings. We have societies, cultures, and languages.”
Organizers anticipate that the festival will represent over 40 countries from throughout the African diaspora including Ghana, Nigeria, and Liberia.

Akyea also hopes the festival entertains participants and immerses them in the diverse culture of the continent. “In a festival setting, you can participate in dance, watch the cooking of the dish, witness a child naming ceremony it has more of an impact,” he says.

One of the collaborators for this year’s Africa Fest is Central Park Sessions, a free summer concert series that supports local non-profits. Leading up to the event, Friday’s Central Park Sessions performers will feature an Africa-themed “Sahara Session” that will represent the African diaspora. The lineup will include Kikeh Mato Afro Pop, Limanya Dance Troupe, Daby Touré and Fatoumata Diawara.
“Africa Fest” weekend also include “Strides For Africa,” the 7th annual 5k run/walk designed for festival participants of all ages. This year’s “Strides For Africa” will begin on Friday at 6 p.m., the first-ever twilight run. “Strides For Africa” begins and ends at Central Park, enabling race participants to enjoy Central Park Sessions. Proceeds from “Strides For Africa” benefit portable water well projects in rural Ethiopia and Liberia. To date, it has funded 13 water projects and served over 10,000 people. Registration for the race is ongoing.

The African Association of Madison also partners with the African Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to educate festival attendees. Akyea appreciates the involvement and commitment of the students in the African Studies department at UW.

“An intern helps us with administrative work and the students in the department all pitch in and help out,” he says. Students participate in the “African Tent,” which includes a physical representation of the continent of Africa.

The main stage attraction for this year’s “Africa Fest” is Ricardo Lemvo and his band, Makina Loca, from Congo. The band performs soukous music, known for is high-energy tempo and rhythmic percussion. Now based in Los Angeles, Lemvo grew up in Congo-Kinshasa in central Africa and plays an innovative style of Afro-Cuban music. Other local artists will include Kikeh Mato, Tani Diakite, Atimevu Jam Ak Jam, and The Masquerade.

The festival is free and open to the public and will take place at Central Park, 202 S. Ingersoll Street, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information about Africa Fest, click here.