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Africa rises on Trafalgar Square

BALANCING ACT: A performer shows off his skills during the day [PIC CREDIT: Ernest Simons]

TRAFALGAR SQAURE was a sea of vibrant colours and flavours at the weekend as over 20,000 people descended upon the popular tourist attraction for the inaugural celebration, Africa On The Square.

The threat of rain didn’t put Londoners and tourists off from flocking to the giant free festival to mark Black History Month, organised by the Mayor of London in association with Open The Gate – the organisation behind the hugely popular The African Market at Spitalfields, in east London.

Even if it did, the smell of authentic cuisine being cooked and sold around the square was enough to lure them back.

But much like the food, the rain didn’t last for long and it was blue skies and a great atmosphere for the rest of the day.

Capital XTRA DJ Abrantee got the party started with his vibrant hosting skills alongside performer Usifu Jalloh from Sierra Leone, also known as ‘The Cowfoot Prince’.

Together, the pair provided the perfect cushion between a hotbed of performances from some of the continent’s most vibrant stars.

Culturally rich and high-energy performances came from Nigeria’s Dele Sosimi’s Afrobeat Experience, Gwana Griot featuring Simo Lagnawi (Morocco) and Jally Kebba Susso (Gambia), Aar Manta (Somalia), Anna Mudeka Band (Zimbabwe/South Africa) and West Africa’s Baba Adesose Wallace.

While singer Kemi Aneke was crowned the winner of the festival’s talent show, set to profile top young talent from the continent.

The inaugural Africa on the Square event was organised by the Mayor of London’s office to achieve its goal of ensuring that all of the capital’s residents are represented on its social calendar.


CELEBRATION: The crowd gather around the stage. Nelson's column looks on in the background [PIC CREDIT: Ernest Simons]

“London is home to a large and diverse number of African communities, who contribute to the cultural and economic life of the capital and reinforce the historic ties we have to that great continent. As we mark Black History Month I am delighted to be welcoming this celebration of African culture to Trafalgar Square,” London Mayor Boris Johnson said ahead of the celebrations.

“It will be an opportunity for all Londoners to explore Africa's rich heritage and traditions.”

And that it was.

Visitors were treated to lessons in drumming, batik making and Moroccan henna tattoo, while a variety of stalls selling African themed products, including fashion, arts and crafts.

Cascia Andrews, a tube driver and entrepreneur from south London, said: “What’s also good is that it’s not just a display of culture from Nigeria and Ghana, you’ve got Somalia and Eritrea too. It’s an opportunity to educate ourselves on all the continent has to offer.

Andrews, who is from the Caribbean, said she was glad to see that the event was open to everyone and not exclusive to those from the continent.

“The amount of different ethnicities you see here today is amazing,” she said. “You’ve got Chinese, you’ve Indian, you’ve got black, you’ve got white, you’ve got everything.”


STANDING TALL: Two performers entertain the crowd [PIC CREDIT: Ernest Simons]

She added: “I think it should be a yearly thing because Africa is up and coming with all of the music and cinema. It’s a great event.”

Africans now account for seven per cent (nearly 600,000) of the capital’s eight million residents with significant Ghanaian, Kenyan, Somali, Congolese and South African communities.

London is also estimated to be home to one of the largest overseas Nigerian communities in the world.

A Mayor’s spokesperson commented: “We are delighted with how the event went and we had positive feedback throughout the day. There was a fantastic crowd and there was a terrific atmosphere.”

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