LuminaTO 2010 - The Africa Thread

LuminaTO Festival of Arts & Creativity 
Toronto - June 11 - 20

The Africa Thread

Don't get me wrong - you should definitely check out the full range of LuminaTO's truly inspired
programming this year, featuring the North American premiere of Rufus Wainwright's opera Prima Donna, along with the world premiere of Tapestry New Opera's Dark Star Requiem (which I'll be checking out next week,) and John Malkovich makes his Luminato debut starring in the true story of celebrated Austrian author and notorious murderer Jack Unterweger in The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer.Those come along with more music, visual arts, films and performances than you could possibly stuff into yourself over its 10 day run. I'll be taking out what I can!

Since there's way too much to talk about in a blog post all at once, I'll mention one of the aspects I'm most
excited about - the Africa Thread. It's through arts and culture that we can understand each other better, and our lack of understanding of Africa in general in the West comes from lack of direct contact. We get nameless, faceless stories in the media about war, famine, epidemics, and never hear about real people leading everyday lives. We talk about Africa, and never talk to Africa.

But even leaving any of that aside, if it's your first real exposure to African culture, you'll be amazed at both the diversity and the talent, and to ice the cake, there are a good number of free events. Here's a look at some of what's on offer (with material from media releases):


The Africa Trilogy – World Premiere
A triple bill of new plays, The Africa Trilogy examines the complicated relationship existing between Africa and the West. Inspired by the 2005 Massey Lectures by Stephen Lewis, The Africa Trilogy explores the
human reality of this complex global relationship from three distinct points of view. The piece features a creative ensemble of three writers and three directors spanning three continents. Directors Josette Bushell-Mingo, Ross Manson and Liesl Tommy, along with playwrights Christina Anderson, Roland Schimmelpfennig, and Binyavanga Wainaina draw upon their own cultural experiences in order to question the way we see and imagine each other. Commissioned by Luminato and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, The Africa Trilogy is a production of Toronto’s Volcano Theatre and is presented in association with Harbourfront Centre. The performance runs for a total of three hours 30 minutes, including two intermissions.
In previews Thursday, June 10 - Sunday, June 13; Tuesday, June 15 (opening night) - Sunday, June 20 at the Fleck Dance Theatre
$30 - 45

I'll be checking this out, with a blog post and a more in depth print piece in next month's Lucid Media Magazine - the print version.


African Literature
Luminato’s African Literature authors represent the evolution of African writing. Featuring a panel of four esteemed authors, the event is highlighted by a reading from celebrated Kenyan novelist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. As a writer and professor, Thiong’o championed the development of an African-centric literature rather than European literary traditions. His commitment to a culturally-specific style of writing has made Thiong’o a role-model for countless authors in both Africa and around the world. Brian Chikwava and Binyavanga Wainaina, winners of the Caine Prize — considered the Booker Prize of African literature — join Thiong’o at Luminato along with Nigerian-Canadian author Carole Enahoro. Author and Toronto Poet Laureate Dionne Brand moderates
African Literature.- Saturday, June 12 at the Isabel Bader Theatre

Monday Night Fiction
Consisting of two separate readings, Monday Night Fiction features Ben Okri and Roddy Doyle, both Booker Prize-winning authors, discussing how diverse cultural influences helped to shape their narratives and settings. Okri’s writing combines European literary traditions with African mythology creating a distinct style that merges the influence of two diverse cultures. Irish novelist Roddy Doyle is known around the world for his realistic examination of regional characteristics and history. Cultural disparities define his writing and characters as do his own observations and experiences. Doyle gives the first Toronto reading of his new book The Dead Republic, the final installment in The Last Roundup trilogy. Okri reads from his newest title Tales of Freedom. Ben Okri’s appearance is supported by The British Council.
Ben Okri – Monday, June 14 at the Al Green Theatre at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community
Centre $25
Roddy Doyle – Monday, June 14 at the Jane Mallet Theatre $25

Scene of the Crime
Scene of the Crime explores the significance of setting within the crime thriller genre with two masters of suspense. South Africa’s most famous murder mystery author, Deon Meyer writes in Afrikaans to create regionally specific murder mysteries. John Brady, who divides his time between Ireland and Canada, sets his thrillers amidst the politics and shifting economy of his native Ireland. He will read from A Long Hard Look, the newest title in his Matt Minogue series. Meyer will read from his best-selling novel Thirteen Hours.
Friday, June 11 at the Al Green Theatre at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre


Global Music: Rock The Casbah & An African Prom
Luminato explores intersections between Eastern and Western musical traditions with a free allday musical event featuring artists from around the globe. Rock The Casbah features acclaimed musicians Lo'Jo and emerging Montreal banjo maestro Karim Saada. Toronto’s Maryem Tollar Ensemble also brings their world music fusion to the stage. Rock The Casbah culminates with a set by Algerian-born rocker Rachid Taha, whose energetic musical style infuses his North African roots with the spirit of punk.

As day turns to night, An African Prom presents the Toronto debut of Nigeria’s Tony Allen, one of the founding fathers of Afrobeat, plus the onstage reunion of two musical collaborators from different continents: American banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck and Mali’s Bassekou Kouyate. Major media partners for this production are CTV and The Globe and Mail.
Saturday, June 12, 1 - 11 PM in Queen’s Park

National Bank Festival: Global Divas and Global Blues
Luminato presents a free outdoor concert that celebrates the Festival’s East/West and Diva themes with the National Bank Festival: Global Divas and Global Blues. Global Divas features four female vocalists from a variety of backgrounds including Canada’s Alejandra Ribera, whose music combines her Argentinean roots, classical training, and early interest in cabaret-style jazz. Rupa and the April Fishes use English, Spanish and French to create their global sound. Cape Verde native Carmen Souza draws on her Creole origins to create a soul jazz sound while Toronto's Katenen 'Cheka' Dioubate celebrates the modern African woman's perspective through song.

Heading the bill for Global Blues is Salif Keita, a direct descendant of the founder of the Malian Empire who has been hailed as “the Golden Voice of Africa.” Keita is a world-music star known for blending traditional griot music and other West African styles with influences from Islam and the West. Direct from Havana, Mezcla is an afro-Cuban jazz and blues fusion group led by Pablo Menendez, a Havana-raised American guitarist. New York-based Razia Said performs traditional Malagasy music backed by Juno Award winner Madagascar Slim on guitar. National Bank Festival: Global Divas and Global Blues is presented by National Bank Financial Group.
Saturday, June 19, 1 - 11 PM in Queen’s Park

Luminato’s closing day falls on June 20, the same date as World Refugee Day. In honour of this United Nations-designated occasion, the Festival brings together an international roster of artists for a free all-day concert in Queen’s Park.

As the performers pay musical tribute to all those from around the world who have found refuge in Canada and who now make this country their home, their concert is also the destination for the World Refugee Activities including Reading of the Proclamation and Awards Ceremony for Child and Youth Poetry Contest Commemorating World Refugee Day.

* 1pm Rahim Alhaj and Little Earth (Iraq, USA)
* 2pm Autorickshaw: Bollywood and Beyond (Canada)
* 3pm Mr. Something Something (Canada)
* 4pm Burkina Electric (Burkina Faso, Germany, USA)

Sunday, June 20, 1 - 11 PM in Queen’s Park

Luminato’s Illuminations series features encounters with artists participating in the 2010 Festival.

Throw Down Your Heart - Film Screening and Discussion
Béla Fleck and Bassekou Kouyate, featured performers in this year’s Global Music: Rock the Casbah & An African Prom, discuss their musical collaboration. This conversation is preceded by a screening of Sascha Paladino’s documentary Throw Down Your Heart, which follows Fleck as he travels to Uganda, Tanzania, Mali, and the Gambia to explore the banjo’s African roots.
Saturday, June 12 at the Isabel Bader Theatre, Screening: 10:30 AM, Artist Talk: Noon -1:00 PM

African Issues and the Challenge of Artistic Response
Binyavanga Wainaina, playwright of The Africa Trilogy’s “Shine Your Eye” and Director of the Chinua Achebe Centre for African Literature at Bard College, and James Orbinski, writer, doctor, and former head of the Nobel-prize winning Médecins Sans Frontières, discuss African issues and the place of artistic response. In partnership with the University of Toronto's Centre for Ethics.
Sunday, June 13, George Ignatieff Hall, University of Toronto, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Bamako in Toronto
Timed to coincide with Volcano’s The Africa Trilogy, this collection of images from Africa’s foremost contemporary photography festival testifies to the sophistication and range of a rising generation of photographers from across the continent. This presentation is a rare chance to catch a glimpse of contemporary Africa as seen through the lenses of some of the continent’s hottest photographers. Co-presented by Volcano, Ryerson Gallery and Research Centre, Autograph ABP, and the Gladstone Hotel. Curated by Mark Sealy, Director of London’s Autograph ABP agency. Made possible with the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and with the cooperation of the Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town.
June 3 - August 2, Gladstone Hotel (3rd and 4th floor), 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Lunchtime Conversations
Luminato artists gather in Yorkville each day of the Festival for a series of lunchtime discussions at the flagship ROOTS, 100 Bloor Street West, 2nd floor, at 12:30 PM, FREE.

Tuesday, June 15: Africadian Literature
Building on the Festival’s East/West theme, esteemed Canadian poet and playwright George Elliott Clarke explores the relationship between literature and the African-Canadian communities of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick


The Luminato Reel
Luminato and the National Film Board of Canada present free film screenings of documentaries that follow the creation of Luminato presentations, films that inspired the festival programming, and supplementary work from Luminato artists. 
Saturday, June 12 - Sunday, June 13, Tuesday June 15, Thursday, June 17, Saturday, June 19 – Sunday, June 20,
National Film Board, 150 John Street, FREE

11:00 AM: River of Sand (50 minutes) [Unrated]
As seen through the eyes of legendary Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn, River of Sand is a heartfelt evocation of the music, culture and people of Mali, West Africa.
12:30 PM: AIDS In Africa Double Feature (60 minutes) [Unrated]
Stephen Lewis: The Man Who Couldn’t Sleep
The Bicycle: Fighting AIDS with Community Medicine
Two different stories that explore the AIDS crisis in Africa. First Stephen Lewis is shown on his relentless journey on one of his last missions as UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. Then, Pax Chingawale, a victim of the disease himself, provides an intimate look at AIDS, as he pedals his bike over 20km a day through 20 villages in southern Malawi. These inspirational stories demonstrate how local communities and global medical experts can join together to combat the world’s deadliest pandemic.
2:00 PM: Sembène: The Making of African Cinema (60 minutes) [Unrated]
Directed by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, this documentary follows the legendary Senagalese Sembène Ousmane on his journey as a filmmaker, discussing his career and craft. The film follows Ousmane from the Pan African Film Festival in Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso, and on the streets of Dakar.