Demeatria Boccella, the founder and creative director of FashionAFRICANA, says the goal of the 2021 festival is unification, especially in troubling times of the pandemic and social injustice of the past year.
“I want us to come together as one, celebrating unapologetically, Black creativity,” says Boccella. “It’s truly a global celebration bringing our continents together.”
This year's event will contain both virtual and in-person exhibitions highlighting Rwandan creatives in the fields of beauty, fashion, design, visual arts, verbal art and dance. FestivalAFRICANA debuted virtually in October 2020 spotlighting creatives from Ghana.
The three-day festival begins in the afternoon of June 25 in an online ceremony connecting creatives from Pittsburgh, Paris, and Kigali (the capital of Rwanda). The ceremony will include an introduction of the creators and live performances.
In the evening of June 25, the festival will move to an in-person event for U.S. audiences at the Grable Visitor Center at The Frick Pittsburgh in Point Breeze. The event will include various activities including a “unity” photo shoot conducted by photographer George Lange.
Boccella emphasized the importance of the photo shoot as community leaders and members will participate to showcase unity in themes of race relations and social justice.
Other activities that will take place during the in-person portion of the festival is a musical performance by New York-based DJ That Dana Game and a performance by spoken word artist and August Wilson Monologue finalist Jay Chapman.
The festival will return online on June 26 for a viewing of a documentary featuring the highlighted Rwandan creatives. The hour and a half film contains a more in-depth presentation into each creative’s journey and work.
The final day of the event on June 27 will be held online to recap the events of the prior two days. The documentary film will be available to view again during this time.
FashionAFRICANA is working with Illume Creative Studio, a communications agency located in Kigali for this year’s event. Their goal is to expand the public’s knowledge on the country of Rwanda beyond the 1994 genocide during the Rwandan Civil War.
Boccella hopes FestivalAFRICANA will inspire younger generations, especially Black youth.
“When they see people who look like them doing this phenomenal work, I want them to be curious and to connect to their history and connect to their culture,'' Boccella says.
FestivalAFRICANA will be an annual event. Each yearly festival will highlight a group of creators from a selected African country. Boccella says they plan to find creators from either Senegal or South Africa for next year’s exhibition.