Thousands attend African Arts Festival

Obdine Wright with his statue he purchase at the festival.
Obdine Wright with his statue he purchased at the festival some years ago.

The International African Arts Festival (IAAF) began in 1971 as the African Street Carnival, a PTA’s block party fundraiser for an independent school in Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn with local entertainers, about 20 arts and crafts vendors, along with food prepared by the parents. Almost 2,000 people came to the event and it was a success.

The festival has been part of the Brooklyn cultural landscape for 40 years. Each year, a committed team of board members, consultants, part-time seasonal staff and volunteers, work together to transform a city park into an outdoor African cultural oasis that celebrates traditional and contemporary expression of various African cultural art forms.

Today, the IAAF is a community-based, non-profit organization that produces an annual event attracting an estimated 75,000 attendees from all over Brooklyn, New York City, the United States and from around the world.

In 2001, the IAAF relocated to Commodore Barry Park which is the third transition to a larger venue to accommodate its growing audience. The original line-up of local folk arts entertainers which has included dance companies such as Dinizulu African Dancers and Drummers, Marie Brooks Pan-Caribbean Dancers, emerging singers such as Martha Redbone and many others, continue to be an important part of the festival’s programming. Over the years, the stages of the festival has featured renowned artists such as Blue Magic, The Mighty Sparrow, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, KRS-1, Lauryn Hill, India Arie; artists who grew to achieve national and international acclaim.

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