Cre­ativ­ity, art in mo­tion

The Denver Post - - ROUNDUP - By Joelle Bau­mann

R&B, neo-soul and jazz artist Ra­j­du­lari crooned as she swayed in rhythm with the live band play­ing be­hind her on the Ku­umba Stage at City Park on Satur­day.

Ku­umba means cre­ativ­ity in Swahili, and that is what the Colorado Black Arts Fes­ti­val is all about. The fes­ti­val cel­e­brated its 31st year with the theme “Art in Mo­tion.”

The an­nual Booga­loo pa­rade pro­ceeded through the park and the fer­vor of par­tic­i­pants spread to the spec­ta­tors, who shook, shim­mied and shouted in ap­proval of drill and drum teams, youth and civic groups and col­or­ful floats.

Florence Ay­ers is the in­terim ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and di­rec­tor of de­vel­op­ment for Colorado Cel­e­bra­tion of African Amer­i­can Arts and Cul­ture. She said Booga­loo is a dance that orig­i­nated back in the 1970s.

“There’s that song ‘Booga­loo Down Broad­way,’ but the idea was made pop­u­lar back in the ’70s,” she said. “I know it to mean ‘a dance that the kids made up.’ We coined the term to sig­nify it’s a per­for­mance. Ours in­volved a lot of drums, drill teams, tum­blers and peo­ple just out per­form­ing.”

Den­ver na­tive Ron Ivory, mu­sic co­or­di­na­tor for the main stage and 50-year mu­si­cian, has at­tended the event since its in­cep­tion and said the theme is meant to in­spire spon­sors and ven­dors to take this year’s fes­ti­val to the next level.

“The peo­ple, the spirit of it, the op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate and honor African and African-amer­i­can cul­ture through art,” he said. “Vis­ually, mu­si­cally and through move­ment to el­e­vate peo­ple through ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Ivory is also the lead singer of Ron Ivory and The Miles Apart band, which will close out the mu­sic Sun­day.

The bold and rich artistry of the African di­as­pora flowed through the “wa­tusakoni” peo­ple’s mar­ket­place. Bright col­ors and pat­terns jumped out from ven­dor booths in the forms of dresses, head wraps, paint­ings, jew­elry and other wares.

Much of the mer­chan­dise is in­spired from the African con­ti­nent and West Africa in par­tic­u­lar, Ay­ers said.

An­gela Mc­clel­lan, a first-time ven­dor who would oth­er­wise only sell her art from Face­book, was able to dis­play large col­or­ful por­traits of her own de­sign. Iconic faces such as Michael Jack­son, Big­gie and Amy Wine­house stared back at pa­trons.

“Eyes are the win­dow to the soul. I al­ways start with the eyes,” said Mc­clel­lan, who also shared her per­sonal sto­ries through her art. Not all of her pieces were per­son­ally sig­nif­i­cant to her, but some were.

“Her sub­se­quent death helped me quit drink­ing,” Mc­clel­lan said of Wine­house. “I’m six years sober.”

The Opalanga D. Pugh Chil­dren’s Pavil­ion for Art and Learn­ing makes the fes­ti­val a fam­ily-friendly event each year.

Chessa Hall­man ran the pavil­ion and said ev­ery year the booth’s aim is to have arts and learn­ing that carry a black or African cul­tural ref­er­ence. This year’s ac­tiv­ity was paint­ing mud cloth and tie-dye­ing T-shirts.

“Mud cloth is tra­di­tion­ally dipped in mud and used like a burlap and func­tions as dec­o­ra­tive pan­els to cover fur­ni­ture, floors and the sides of huts,” she said. “The graphic lines and cir­cles they would paint on them are sig­nif­i­cant to each in­di­vid­ual tribe or na­tion, show­ing who your fam­ily is.”

Hall­man said each year the pavil­ion cre­ates an ac­tiv­ity that the fam­i­lies can en­joy to­gether for free and then take their art­work home. The ma­te­ri­als are funded by lo­cal schools, li­braries and non­prof­its.

They also give young en­trepreneurs the op­por­tu­nity to show­case and sell their art­work. Ten-year-old Jzu­nie Jones and 11-year-old Thandiwe Manyoth­wane cre­ated place mats, paint­ings and pots dec­o­rated with Nde­bele art, which orig­i­nated in South Africa. The art ranged from $1 to $65.

“Most of our art we were in­spired to make to mo­ti­vate peo­ple,” Manyoth­wane said. “I also want peo­ple to see what art from South Africa looks like and show the beauty in the world.”

Jones is Kenyan and Manyoth­wane is South African, and they are as­pir­ing artists who hope to earn money to con­tinue cre­at­ing art that pro­motes pos­i­tive mes­sages.

“My place mats re­sem­ble Africa and give pos­i­tive mes­sages like love and be your­self,” Jones said. “I make mats for peo­ple who are de­pressed so I can show peo­ple that there is color in the world; you just have to look for it.”

The Joda Vil­lage was also a place for youth groups to show­case their abil­i­ties and min­gle with the com­mu­nity. Groups such as the March­ing Saints, East High School cheer team and the Mile High Tum­blers 5280 truly put on a show.

Orzell Wil­liams is the founder of the tum­bling or­ga­ni­za­tion and first-year head coach for the cheer team.

“Through tum­bling I can help make them into peo­ple who aren’t ro­bots,” Wil­liams said of the kids.

The last, but never least, an­chor to each year’s fes­ti­val is the food court, which pro­vides food for ev­ery palate. Ven­dors pro­vide cui­sine from the Amer­i­can South, the African con­ti­nent and the Caribbean as well as Amer­i­can fa­vorites.

Gabriel Scar­lett, The Den­ver Post

Alayia Fabre, 7, has her face painted Satur­day by Su­san Ox­man of Fab­u­lous Face Paint­ing at the 31st an­nual Colorado Black Arts Fes­ti­val in Den­ver.

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