Durban hosts first Essence festival in Africa – an event that provides an opportunity to connect scattered populations of black people with similar ambitions in music, fashion, artist, women empowerment and business.
The world is increasingly looking to Africa for entertainment, business and cultural inspiration.
Organized by Essence Magazine, the festival which has been held almost every time in New Orleans, United States for the last 22 years drew visitors from all over Africa and the United States, including Hollywood celebrities like comedian and talk show host, Steve Harvey, musicians Estelle and Kelly Price.
“We want the international community to be exposed to the local artists here, to their phenomenal work, their creations. We want the world to see, we want to tell of a story to everyone about the great local artistry here, all of the businesses, we really want to spread the word so that we can attract more customers and achieve more success,” she said.
Various events also showcased entrepreneurs and played a role in bridging the gap between Black America and Africa in terms of business and culture.
“We’ve learnt a lot from them, like for example the style, that is the trends, they are telling us about the international trends that… how can we incorporate them using also our traditional fabrics, because I use our traditional fabrics so now I will get to design maybe clothes that they would wear internationally but using our fabrics as well,” said South African designer, Nyameka Ntonga.
It was also a meeting place for Africans to interact and share ideas amongst themselves.
“Just an amazing experience to meet up with other African designers, and we sharing the same experiences, sharing the same programs, sharing the same difficulties, to think about how can we grow, how can we extend our brand to be like the most famous African brands like of tomorrow,” said Rodrig Tchatcho from Cameroon.
Visitors also had a lot to learn – from culture to history, the US based artists and business people – many who have attended Essence festivals many times before, said that South Africa as a venue had enriched their experience.
“We are forever connected. We are black people. We are forever connected. We love you,” Harvey told a cheering crowd after a performance by artist, Ne-Yo.
“I would take just that genuine hospitality and appreciation for life and lives of other people and in the states everybody is thinking of self right now,” said Ne-Yo.
“For me it feels like I am home, it’s been a spiritual journey for me, its heartfelt emotional, the children, going to Ghandi’s house, everything that I have witnessed has just been a lot of love and its very warm,” said Lynn Woods, another visitor.
South Africa’s talented artists like multi award-winning singer, Thandiswa Mazwai, Black Coffee and rapper AKA also took to the stage.