In 2021 The Successors of the Mandingue (TSOTM) hosted a development phase Arts Council of Wales Connect and Flourish project with the following shared objectives as part of our collective’s partnership agreement:
- creating meaningful employment opportunities for African artists in Wales in their specialist art forms
- bringing together disparate artists to collaborate on music/dance projects that enable greater cross-cultural understanding
- facilitating cultural education and exchange through community engagement.
After extensive research and pilot work (see Planting the Seeds) a project partnership team including TSOTM, Neuadd Ogwen, Butetown Arts and Cultural Association (BACA), and Rahim El Habachi were awarded a second Connect and Flourish grant to continue this work.
This ambitious and exciting pan-Wales collaboration project – ‘Dathliad Cymru-Affrica’ is a two-year project bringing together artists, promoters/venues, & audiences to celebrate and appreciate the arts of African practitioners and the African diaspora in Wales. We aim to do this by developing a multi-venue Wales-Africa festival concept and a circuit of venues and promoters working co-operatively to programme African arts, in order to integrate this work into Wales’ cultural scene.
We kicked off this summer by bringing Fatoumata Kouyaté Djéliguinet to perform and deliver workshops at events across Wales in August/September 2022 (see below for a round-up of the events with photos and film footage).
To develop a circuit of venues/promoters interested in programming African arts and a develop a sustainable Wales-Africa festival that grows year on year that:
- provides meaningful opportunities for artists of African origin in Wales
- showcases African arts across Wales
- engages in communities through participatory arts activities
- develops new and innovative collaborations and fusions locally
- promotes inclusion and representation
- reaches and develops new audiences
If you are a promoter, venue or festival in Wales and are interested in joining our circuit of others interested in working together to remove some of the barriers to programming high quality African arts in Wales then please get in touch: email@example.com
If you are an African diaspora artist based in Wales or can travel to work in Wales easily and you might be interested in running workshops and/or performing as part of this project then please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are a community organisation and would be interested in booking an African arts workshop (dance, spoken word, drumming and more), or you work with African diaspora communities and you want to collaborate then contact us: email@example.com
Round up of our first summer of activity – Dathliad Cymru-Affrica 2022
This summer promoters and festivals across the UK struggled with long visa processing times causing delays to, and cancellations of, tours. Our project was similarly affected, however we were fortunate enough to be able to secure the presence of Fatoumata Kouyaté Djeliguinet just in time for a scheduled performance at the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron on August 6th 2022. Djeliguinet delivered a beautiful solo instrumental performance on balafon and djembe on the folk stage, Ty Gwerin.
Next up was a mini festival day in partnership with The Welfare Ystradgynlais and Butetown Arts and Culture Association (BACA) on Thursday 11th August for an African Celebration Day, where Fatoumata and our very own N’famady Kouyaté (along with guest artists from around Wales and the UK) ran a dance and djembe workshop to a very enthusiastic and amazing audience, who got involved even in the very hot weather. There was Nigerian food, craft workshops for children and even a stage performance from Keith Murrell (BACA). Our partners over at BACA (Butetown Arts and Culture Association) showcased their beautiful Dwndwr y Dŵr performance and in the evening Fatoumata ‘Djeliguinet’ ended the day with a bang, with a performance including two great dancers (Aida Diop and Salif Camara). It really was a pleasure to see so many locals from Ystradgynlais and further afield come and join us in celebrating African dance and music.
The following week the team set off to Green Man festival and two days of workshop provision at their Settlement site. At this point we had an additional artist joining Fatoumata’s Troupe Djeliguinet – Ousmane Kouyaté originally from Guinea but now resident in Toulouse, France. The response was amazing as you can see below from one of our West African djembe drumming workshops.
Next came a stripped back acoustic performance by Fatoumata Kouyaté Djeliguinet and Ousmane Kouyaté at the Grand Pavillion, Portcawl at the invitation of new partners The Awen Trust. A lovely evening playing to visitors to the seafront before a bank holiday weekend of non-stop performances.
August bank holiday saw Troupe Djeliguinet head north first to Bethesda and Gruff Rhys’ Ara Deg festival in Neuadd Ogwen. This live set was delivered by an explosive quartet where Fatoumata and Ousmane were paired with two artists resident in the UK providing support in the form of percussion and dance. The footage below gives you a flavour of the night.
The following day the crew were at Pride Cymru with a mini-performance at the Deaf Pride Cymru tent in partnership with Deaf Wales Hub. There was a lot of enthusiastic engagement with plenty of dancing and smiles all round.
The final grand performance of the tour was yet to come however and the next day a ‘super-group’ of West African master musicians and dancers came together to headline and close the Senedd Steps Stage at Butetown Carnival 2022 in Cardiff Bay. This was a special night, as you can see from the footage below, and included a performance from a unique collaboration project Djeli and Bards – use this link to see more about this work.
Our last activities of the summer were primarily educational and/or community engagement. We had women’s balafon sessions led by Fatoumata Kouyaté Djeliguinet where participants were already familiar with the instrument and had some proficiency. The majority of attendees were based in Wales however we had two visitors from London who made the trip for such a rare opportunity of a masterclass. We headed west one last time for Celtic Deaf Festival in Aberteifi delivering both djembe and dance workshops with the support of British Sign Language interpretation, and finally, before departing Wales, the troupe visited a Swansea primary school to deliver a demonstration performance and each year group got to experience authentic West African dance workshops with live percussion.
The network/circuit of promoters, festivals, and venues interested in programming African arts has also been established with an initial invitation sent out, and now an open call for people to join (more info here on joining the network). We have had an amazing initial response and will be sharing ideas, opportunities, and potential plans for African arts programming in Wales and the UK via the network’s LinkedIn and Facebook groups.
To build upon 2022’s successes and lessons learned, we were successful in securing ACW Create funding for our Dathliad Dau project for a two weekend Afro-Welsh celebration of culture and sound ‘Dathliad Cymru-Affrica’ festival in June 2023.
The aim of the festival is to platform and celebrate the richness of diversity in Wales, specifically African diaspora culture and arts, engaging African artists based in Wales and inviting guest artists from UK, Europe, and Africa. The festival will be a platform for showcasing collaborative work, including Afro-Welsh fusions and performances, and promoting year-round work of African community groups. In the lead up to, and following the festival, we will be running a community engagement programme with community centres and organisations to engage with marginalised groups to enable their access to a series of workshops (including African dance and drumming/percussion).
Dathliad Cymru-Affrica 2023
Our first year’s dedicated Dathliad Cymru-Affrica festival took place at Neuadd Ogwen, Bethesda 1-3 June and the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff 10-11 June.
In the lead up to the festival we also commissioned three new Afro-Welsh collaborations to be performed at the festival. The Successors of the Mandingue All Stars featuring Welsh folk singer Eve Goodman, created the beautiful song ‘Da Ni Yma Cymru, Da Ni Yma Affrica’ together and performed live at both festival weekends.
Welsh living legend Dafydd Iwan and spoken word artist Ali Goolayd then collaborated to create ‘Rwyt Ti Fel Tae’r Awyr Yn Gefnfor (You’re Like If The Sky Was An Ocean)’ which you can read more about and watch here.
Finally we commissioned a dance piece between Aida Diop and Krystal Lowe – Ballet Cymru meets Ballet Africains. For the video and more info see here.
We kickstarted the festival in Bethesda at Neuadd Ogwen, over the three days in early June by showcasing Wales based emerging African heritage artists, international acts from Mali, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa, a performance by North Wales Africa Society’s children’s group, a visual arts exhibition, as well as African artists from across the UK. You can see some of the wonderful highlights here in the next video.
The following weekend we did it again but on a larger scale at the Wales Millennium centre in Cardiff, with three stages showcasing local African arts community organisations, workshops, an African Fashion Show, emerging artists, and of course the main stage. You can watch highlights of the weekend below.
What a way to end our 2023 festival, it was a beautiful experience and we hope you will join us next time for what promises to be even better (if possible) than our first year! More info to come with dates for 2024, stay tuned!
For details on the festivals from this year and all artists bios you can go to our festival page.