Pan African Festival Connects African Diaspora Through the Arts

More than 100 artisans and 170 films from around the world are being showcased at the 27th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival in Los Angeles.

The multiday event in the largely African American neighborhood of Baldwin Hills aims to connect Africans to people of African descent from around the world.

“As a result of the slave trade and colonization, African people are spread all over the planet, so we get a chance through this festival, get a chance to know each other,” said the festival’s executive director, Ayuko Babu.

Film, fine art, fashion and jewelry with Africa as inspiration are all featured at the festival.

“I never think of us as African American. I think of us as Africans in America, and in coming from that perspective, the ancestral lineage of art and Africa is beyond belief,” said jewelry artist Henry Baba Osageyfo Colby of Timbuktu Art Colony.

Film festival

Filmmakers from around the world, such as Nigerian director and actress Stephanie Linus, also attended the festival.

“Connecting all of us to film that is especially about us and we can see a reflection of ourselves and tell our stories and get a better understanding about where I’m coming from,” said Linus, who presented her movie, Dry, at the festival.

The film is about child marriage and the devastating effects of the practice. It is a social issue in Nigeria that surprised Linus when she first learned about it while attending college.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, can you believe that we’re living in the same country? We’re having two totally different experiences.’ We in the south (of Nigeria) are able to go to school, have an education, decide what happens to our bodies, and there’s some people up in the north where they don’t even have those choices.”

Linus has used the power of the media to bring awareness to child marriage, which affects girls around the world.

“I’m happy that people have taken proactive action because we screened the movie in Gambia and a month later, the government banned child marriage in Gambia,” Linus said.

Dialogue and education

One of the main goals of the festival is to create dialogue and education through film and the arts.

“We know there’s profound things happening around the black world, and so this is a way to amplify that make people pay attention,” Babu said.

This year’s festival opened Feb. 7 and runs through Feb. 18

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