(Marrakech, Morocco) - AFRƎEculture is a new cultural platform launching this February in Marrakech celebrating and supporting the talent, diversity and global influence of Africa and the African diaspora with a 3-day schedule of exclusive invite-only events and salon-style programming. The inaugural edition will present film screenings and literature readings, explorations in music and fashion, panel discussions, and entrepreneurial mentorship.
The multi-platform salon series will take place at the prestigious Jnane Tamsna, a boutique hotel in the Palmeraie District in Marrakech, Feb 19-22.
AFRƎEculture is co-founded by female entrepreneurs Mashariki Williamson and Meryanne Loum-Martin. Loum-Martin, of Senegalese and West-Indian descent, is a former lawyer from Paris. She has been a resident of Marrakech for 30-years and a pioneering entrepreneur in the region. She is a board member of the Marrakech Biennale and owner of Jnane Tamsna hotel; Williamson, a Jamaican New Yorker, is an established brand strategist and writer of 20 years.
AFRƎEculture is a 501c3 non-profit organization parented by the King Baudouin Foundation's American Friends Fund.
Morning literature panels will feature award-winning English and French-speaking authors from the African Diaspora including José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola), Abubakar Ibrahim (Nigeria), Max Lobe (Cameroon), Yvonne Owuor (Kenya), Veronique Tadjo (Cote d'Ivoire) and novelist Chika Unigwe (Nigeria).
The afternoon film program will include screenings and cinema panels featuring notable directors, writers, producers, actors, film critics, and journalists. Screenings will include:
“Queen & Slim” (2019), a stylish and provocative romantic drama written by Emmy-award winning writer Lena Waithe and feature directorial debut by Grammy award-winning director Melina Matsoukas about two African-Americans who go on the run after killing a police officer in self-defense during a traffic stop gone wrong. The film has been named one of the top 10 best films of 2019 by the African American Film Critics Association and stars Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloë Sevigny, Flea, Sturgill Simpson and Indya Moore. Matsoukas will be in attendance.
“System K'' (2019), a critically acclaimed documentary by César-Award-winning director Renaud Barret about the eclectic and bubbling street art scene emerging amid social and political chaos in the urban jungle of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Moderating the literature and film panels will be True Africa Founder Claude Grunitzky, Nigerian American writer Enuma Okoro, African American Film Critics Association President Gil Robertson, Nigerian-Ghanaian novelist Taiye Selasi, former CNN journalists Isha Sesay and Zain Verjee, Nigerian American writer Enuma Okoro, and French journalist and author Violaine Binet.
Adama Ndiaye, Founder of Fashion Africa TV, will introduce young fashion designers within the diaspora through curated ensembles worn by the hosts and staff.
In mutual spirit, AFRƎEculture will also host a special collaboration with Black Shade Projects, an art and exhibition platform founded by Myriem Baadi championing photography and photo-based work documenting visual culture across Africa and the diaspora. Curated by Lisa Anderson, the show will explore the female body feminine subject and the female gaze, within contemporary African art and photography through the work of Malian portrait masters Adama Kouyaté (b. 1928) and Abdourahmane Sakaly (1926-1988), alongside the British-Ghanaian contemporary BBFA artist Adelaide Damoah (b. 1976). Also on show is a series of works started in the 80s by artist Youssouf Sogodogo (b.1955) titled Hairstyles of Mali which explores the culture and storytelling of female hair braiding.
AFRƎEculture is also dedicated to mentorship and entrepreneurial empowerment in the creative industries. They have in partnered with Cannes Can: Diversity Collective (CC:DC). Established in 2017, CC:DC is a non-profit organization that empowers young people of color and underrepresented communities to attend the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in Cannes, France.
Each evening will end with a hosted dinner and cocktail party off-site at a partner venue. The AFRƎEculture series will end with a closing gala on Saturday evening, Feb 22 at Jnane Tamsna.
The advisory council includes Nana Oforiatta Ayim (Writer and founder of the ANO Institute of Arts & Knowledge), Violaine Binet (Writer and former Editor-in-Chief of Literature, French Vogue), Isolde Brielmaier, Ph.D. (International curator and cultural strategist), Benjamin Bronfman Jr. (Musician; Co-Founder, Direct Air Capture (DAC), Debra Martin Chase (Film Producer, Harriet), Afua Dabanka (Founder MO SAÏQUE), Miatta David Johnson and Massah David (Founders, MVD Inc.), Enuma Okoro (Author), Patrice Farameh (Creative Director & Manager, The Curated Collection - Jakob Jakob Studios), Claude Grunitzky (Founder, True Africa), Meryanne Loum-Martin (Owner, Jnane Tamsna; Co-founder AFRƎEculture), Thaïs Martin (Digital Content Manager, AFRƎEculture), Adama (Paris) Ndiaye (Founder/Host, Fashion Africa TV), Suneeta Olympio-Locoh (F-Project Agency / Rouse Women), Manthe Ribane, KayKay Ribane, Tebogo Ribane (Award-winning multidisciplinary artists; Dear Ribane), Taiye Selasi (Novelist), Isha Sesay (former CNN anchor and founder of W.E. Can Lead), (Mashariki Williamson (Co-founder, AFRƎEculture), and Charlotte Wolseley-Brinton (Director, Event Fusion).
In February 2019, Loum-Martin and Williamson hosted a 4-day open-air working retreat among the gardens of Loum-Martin’s Jnane Tamsna hotel in the Palmeraie district of Marrakech. They invited an advisory council of distinguished experts and professionals in various creative fields to convene to begin laying the groundwork for a new cultural platform celebrating and supporting the talent, diversity and global influence of Africa and the African diaspora. The retreat included moderated talks, working sessions and curated tours exploring the rich culture of the local art scene including 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, and performance at the newly opened Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) by musician, performer, and council member Manthe Ribane.
Loum-Martin welcomed guests with words written in honor of the retreat by Maryse Condé, the 82-year-old Guadeloupean and 2018 winner of the Alternative Nobel New Academy Prize in Literature. Loum-Martin read the words in French and her daughter Thaïs Martin read them in English, setting the tone for the multi-cultural celebration.
“Only art and culture can keep death in check. In this day and age, this essential truth seems to be forgotten. In the world we live in, anxieties and fears have grown darker. More and more, people fear people because of the color of their skin, their religion, or the language they speak. They have forgotten that difference gives the universe its flavor. What would it be like, if we were all born of the same womb, a bland broth, repugnant to all tastes. However, despite this corridor of darkness, we must keep hope. We must keep faith. One day our sister-in-common, the sun, will reappear. It will shine its light and spread its heat on all those who have continued to exercise their creativity, those who have put their minds to work, all around the world. Yes, tomorrow the world will be beautiful, the earth will be round, just as its creators had dreamed.” -Maryse Condé
One of the tasks set out for the retreat was to establish a name that expressed the spirit and goals of the platform to build a movement of cultural self-determination by broadening the scope of creative expression and fostering a new spirit of collaboration. As such, AFRƎE culture was born, paying homage to the words “Africa”, “freedom”, and “culture” with the Latin “Ǝ” used in many languages of Africa.
“When approaching anything having to do with Africa, we are often limited to certain conversations such as economics, social reform, etcetera, but ART is the medium that bridges that gap, serving as a platform that allows us to engage in those sensitive conversations.” -Mashariki Williamson
One of the esteemed members of the platform’s advisory council is the Nigerian-Ghanaian novelist Taiye Selasi: “I think we are witnessing the flowering of diaspora culture. It’s what Hemingway would have called a moveable feast. The challenge for the diaspora was that we didn’t have a place. We didn’t have a Harlem, we didn’t have a Montparnasse. Now, we have Meryanne’s place in Marrakech. We must all see the magnitude of what we are doing, we are defining a moment in diaspora culture. Every lasting cultural revolution began with a convening like this one in Marrakech. What happened in Harlem was not just for New Yorkers, what happened in Paris was not just for the French, and what is happening here in Marrakech is not just for Africans. It’s for the world.”
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Douar Abiad, Palmeraie