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Festival in Austria celebrates African arts and culture

posted 4 Aug 2011, 09:05 by Mpelembe   [ updated 4 Aug 2011, 10:11 ]
The Africa Days festival is an annual 18 day event held in Austria that showcases African culture and art.

 VIENNA, AUSTRIA REUTERS -  African music, art, food and dance set the stage for this year's Africa Days Festival held on Austria's Danube Island in the capital Vienna.

The 18 day event opened to visitors on July 29th and is said to attract about 80,000 guests each year.

The open air festival helps Austrians celebrate and learn about African diversity. It is also aimed at sharing European culture with Africans living in the Diaspora.

"The music here is just fantastic; everything is rich in color and beautiful. Furthermore there are simply no negative or grumpy people around - the atmosphere is so positive in every sense," said Dorothea Hofer, a visitor at the festival.

Stars like Germany's Gentleman Band and American singer Marla Glen as well as Nigerian songstress, Layori were also part of the performances.

The event gave African exhibitors a chance to showcase their artwork, from wooden animal sculptures, handmade jewellery, carpets, baskets to pottery and glassware.

"I think it's a very good opportunity for Europeans to see some part of Africa they might not know about, and also on the other side, for various family businesses to make some income," said Abdallah Salisu, a Ghanaian exhibitor.

For some visitors like Stevenson Maw, the festival didn't really give a true representation of Africa and the African Diaspora. He said it should also be used as a forum to address issues like racism and poverty.

"This festival is only a show - it presents the image, that Africans have a good life in Europe and Austria, while in reality many are facing a tough life, with racism at their workplace, racism in public transport, racism everywhere," said Maw.

This time organizers also used the festival to highlight a drought in the Horn of Africa, that the United Nations has said is the worst in 60 years and has affected 12 million people.

Aid agencies put up stands to update festival goers on the situation and what they can do to help.

"At our festival we also try to remind people about the current famine in eastern Africa. We are working together with the Austrian Red Cross in trying to get donations from all our visitors," said Irene Zinger the festival's Deputy Organiser.

The festival also hopes to open up more business opportunities for Africans in Austria as well as introduce Austrians to trade with Africa.