African Fest attracts large crowds

Throngs of fashionistas and families strolled the booth-lined lanes at this year’s African Fest at BAM–its 35th year–in conjunction with DanceAfrica.

With the weekend weather cooperating for the long holiday weekend, it was an opportunity for New York area clothing designers, many using African fabrics, to highlight their work to appreciative Brooklyn patrons. One fabric artist, who only does fairs, dyes his own shirts and fabric, which he also sold by the yard, and was willing to explain the technical details of his process. There was a lot of artist-made jewelry in the mix too.

African sculptures, carved from wood or Shona sculptures from serpentine stone also were on display along with booths selling a plethora of paintings, baskets, and drums galore. One artist showed her hand-made quilts with African-American themes. A box of coconuts beckoned those with a yearning of a taste from the Caribbean.

This year’s Fest stretched along Ashland Place with more displays across Lafayette St. BAMcinématek also presented FilmAfrica, a cinematic sidebar to the annual DanceAfrica festival at BAM.

Across from BAM on Lafayette St., the sparkling new Le Kay restaurant, offering Haitian and American cuisine, had its “soft opening,” in time for the Fest. The founder of African Film Festival, Inc. Mahen Bonetti, popped in to smooze with friends she saw through the window. The official opening of Le Kay is June 2.

Joe Cesar, beseeched by friends to bring out the music, finally obliged to bring out speakers and then as usual, while the day wound down, the atmosphere heated up when Lafayette St. in front of BAM became a giant dance floor for all to shake it up.

Meanwhile, the DanceAfrica 2012: Art Exhibition “Waiting For The Queen,” which began on May 18 will close on June 3.

This exhibition features a selection of works on paper by two emerging Nigerian artists working in the U.S.: Njideka Akunyili and Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze. These distinctive, beautiful works blend various media, modes of representation, and images.

Njideka Akunyili was born in Enugu, Nigeria. She is a 2011 MFA graduate of Yale University and received a BA from Swarthmore College in 2004 and a post-baccalaureate certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) in 2006. Her paintings, characterized by rigorous figuration, explore Akunyili’s complex relationship to both Nigerian and Western culture. She is currently an artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Ruby Onyinyechi Amanze is an artist of Nigerian birth and British upbringing. Her drawings are greatly influenced by textile processes, printmaking, architecture, and the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which emphasizes the beauty in that which is transient. She is a recipient of a Fulbright Lecturing/Research award for 2012 — 13.

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