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Baltimore School for the Arts’ African Fest offers local students global perspective

BALTIMORE (WBFF) – The Baltimore School for the Arts is pushing a global perspective for its students through a yearlong focus on African contributions to arts, culture, dance, sociological, political and science fields. The theme of the year is “Africa Now,” and next week a festival kicks off with multiple events each day to highlight lessons learned as students continue to become well-informed global citizens.

The program will let kids meet the Nigerian artist Laolu Senbajo – whose work you may recognize from a scene of Lemonade featuring a body-painted Beyoncé. They’ll hear from a renowned curator and sculptor on the portrayal of the African diaspora in art and stage an original performance, The Marketplace of Ghana. Students will see a film screening on Africa's first freely elected female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, and much more.

“A global perspective is one of the core values of The Baltimore School for the Arts and also critical for success in the 21st century,” said Dr. Chris Ford, director of the school. “This year’s celebration of the culture and accomplishments of Africa will help shape our students into true global citizens.”

Sixteen students also traveled to Ghana from January 21 to 28 to work with local students and professional artists. There, they learned about Ghanaian woodcarving, textile production and basket weaving and visited museums, natural sites, and cultural landmarks.

The school says other projects include, reading This Child Will be Great and creating digital interpretations of the story. Statistics students heard a guest lecture from Paul J. Ferraro, a Johns Hopkins professor who'll discuss the approach of using math to evaluate the HIV epidemic in Malawi earlier this year. Chemistry students will explore the South African mining industry.

All of the interdisciplinary projects by students throughout the year will culminate in the Africa Now Festival, which runs from March 20 to 25, and is open to the public.

Here’s a look at BSA's events happening this week, starting on March 20. The general public is invited to join in on the fun during "Africa Now: Global Creativity in Perspective" events held Tuesday evening, Friday evening, and all day Saturday.

On Monday afternoon, March 20, Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo, known for his Yoruba-inspired drawings on shoes, jackets, and even the human body, will lead a workshop on the Sacred Art of the Ori with BSA visual arts students. He’ll also give a performance at 4:30 pm as part of the Spring Gallery Opening. Senbanjo’s form of body-painting was made famous through its appearance in Beyoncé’s Lemonade project; he interviews his subjects and then paints various attributes of the gods in Yoruba culture onto their bodies, based on those conversations.

On Tuesday afternoon, March 21, at 1 pm, BSA students will present on the various academic topics they have been exploring throughout the year, from disciplines ranging from chemistry to English to statistics. Tuesday evening, BSA music ensembles will present a free recital for the general public at 5 pm in the Schaefer Ballroom. The music selections will feature composers from the African diaspora, including “Four Caprices” by Fred Onovwerosuoke, “The earth is tired” by Alberto Grau, “Three Nigerian Dances” by Samuel Ekpe Akpabot, and “This is Africa” by Shawn E. Okpebholo.

On Wednesday morning, March 22, renowned curator Diala Toure and celebrated sculptor Melvin Edwards will speak to the students about the portrayal of the African diaspora in art. Former curator of collections at the James E. Lewis Museum of Art and current faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University, Toure is a curator, art historian, and an independent appraiser specializing in African art. In 1970, Edwards became the first African-American sculptor to have works presented in solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum. On Wednesday evening, the Senior Acting Ensemble and Stage Design and Production Students will present an original performance piece, The Marketplace of Ghana, created by Kwame Shaka Opare. Inspired by Opare’s recent residency in Ghana West Africa, the performance includes music, movement, projected images, poetry, acting, and dance.

On Thursday morning, March 23, there will be a film screening for BSA students of Iron Ladies of Liberia, a documentary that explores the achievements and struggles of Africa's first freely elected female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia. At 5 pm, 16 students who recently traveled to Ghana will present an overview of their trip, complete with artwork, self-composed poetry, and a Q and A session.

On Friday morning, March 24, directors Chelsea Odufu and Emann Odufu will present their film Ori Inu: In Search of Self, a coming of age story about a young immigrant woman who must choose between conforming her identity and spirituality to the cultural norms of America or revisiting her roots in the Afro-Brazilian religion called Candomble. The day culminates with the festival’s multidisciplinary performance at 6 pm in the evening, featuring original works by French-Tunisian composer Yacine Boulares and Congolese choreographer Zab Maboungou, as well as a short film from BSA’s Ghana Voyage.

On Saturday, March 25, from noon to 1:30 pm, BSA will host a free children’s festival with storytelling and coloring workshops, as well as an African souvenir petting zoo. At 1:30 pm BSA high school and TWIGS students will perform an original work adapted from an African folk story. At 3 pm, there will be an additional presentation of Friday evening’s feature performances.

You can find a full festival schedule by clicking here.

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