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Celebrating African art and culture:

Music and poetry higlight Black History Month events

It’s a good time to show some respect — and have a little fun. Black History Night at Vsebarácnická rychta Nov. 12 promises a good time and easy access to the artistry of African cultures. The event, which will feature traditional and contemporary African music, dance and poetry, is the headliner in a larger celebration of Black History Month in Prague.

“Black History Month is a celebration of the glorious past of Africa,” says Kofi Nkrumah, a Ghana native and president of Humanitas Afrika, a humanitarian nongovernmental organization.

Local observances of Black History Month began last year, with a speaking forum organized by Prague City Council and the Association of International Relations. This year the group of organizers has expanded to include Czech Human Rights Commissioner Svatopluk Karásek, the Culture Ministry, the Czech Literary Fund Foundation, the British Council, Renaissance One and Humanitas Afrika. And this year’s focus is on art and culture.

“Very little is known about Africa, African culture and the contemporary way of life here,” says Humanitas Afrika volunteer Zdislava Kratenová.

Organizers also hope this year’s activities will promote awareness and acceptance of all minorities. “You don’t see many colors when you walk the streets of Prague,” Kratenová says. “But you don’t have to be afraid to talk to a person with a different skin color.”

Black History Month events actually began in October with a screening of Malcolm X, and included several other events and forums in Prague and Plzen.

The main event at Vsebarácnická rychta will showcase artists such as Seyni Cissoko, who plays traditional music from Senegal, Gambia and Mali on a 21-stringed kora, an impressively complicated African instrument. There will also be a performance by Tshikuna, an Afro-pop band based in Prague whose members hail from the Congo, Gambia and the Czech Republic. Their songs are in both French and a native African language called Langala.

Poet Nicholas Makoha, a Uganda-born London resident, will be reading excerpts from his books that he describes as “quite personal. They’re about being black, being a man, being a father and coming from Uganda.”

Makoha, who has lived in England, Kenya and Saudi Arabia, says that race has affected both his travels and daily life. “Being black, you have to experience racism,” he says. “But you choose how you want to respond. I don’t have to be aggressive. I don’t have to feel intimidated.”

While he’s found that racism on some level exists almost everywhere, Makoha says it’s not insurmountable. “It’s not something to be feared,” he says. “It’s a hurdle to overcome.”

Other events on tap for the remainder of the month include an exhibition of photographs taken by Helena Jirincová during her stay in Kenya, which are on display at Aero. The finale is a screening of Music is the Weapon, an English-language documentary on Fela Kuti, the late “King of Afrobeat,” at Svetozor Nov. 14 at 8 p.m.

“I really think people will enjoy this,” Kratenova says. “The goal is simply to bring people together and increase awareness.”

By C. Murphy Hebert

via The Prague Post.