Ultimate Festival Guide: Africa edition
Move aside Europe, Americas and Asia and make way for Africa’s unique blend of festivals. You will be dancing naked in the desert or watching men dance and perform their way into perspective suitor’s hearts in no time. Here’s some of the best…
FESTIMA, West African countries including Dedougou, Burkina Faso, February
A West African cultural delight, FESTIMA (international festival of masks and arts) celebrates a centuries old tradition where locals don colourful wooden masks in the form of animals and spirits that enable them to take on that animal’s spirit and dance accordingly (something you will have never seen before!). Small country Burkina Faso’s celebrations attract 100,000-plus crowds to local dances (lasting until 3am), parades and craft marts.
Splashy Fen, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, March
A local favourite, Splashy Fen is to South Africa as Glastonbury is to the UK. But more intimate with just 10,000 tickets up for grabs. Expect non-stop music, river swimming, horse riding and even hot air ballooning at this four-day outdoor gem in a paddock.
Cape Town Jazz Festival, South Africa, March
If jazz is your bag, let the good times blow at Cape Town Jazz Festival, Africa’s largest jazz festival attracting 40,000 attendees over two days. Forty acts from South Africa and across the world cover 5 stages with some of the best Jazz players in the world attending.
Afrikaburn, Tankwa Karoo National Park (300km from Cape Town), South Africa, April/May
Go off the grid in the name of fun at South Africa’s AfrikaBurn, which basically takes the madness of Burning Man (large bonfires, arts, music, costume parties, and likely some nudity) and transports it into the African desert for one week each year. Get in fast.
HIFA, Zimbabwe, May
Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) aims to challenge thought through performance. The ‘fun and fabulous mini-festival’ of the Harare Theatre Season features a weekend of local and international theatre (storytelling, spoken word, dance, satire and comedy), food, wine, conversation and inspiration.
Mawazine, Rabat, Morocco, May
From Middle Eastern rap to international artists like Pitbull and Iggy Azalea, Mawazine (rhythms) is one of the largest music festivals in the world. The weeklong festival draws a crowd of up to 2.5 million people with the goal of showcasing Morocco as a tolerant nation.
Zanzibar International Film Festival, Tanzania July
This is Africa’s largest multi disciplinary art and cultural festival, where more than 60 African films are screened across Zanzibar’s ancient Stone Town over ten days. The film screenings run alongside panels, workshops, concerts and many parties that over 100,000 people from across the world come to attend.
Chale Wote Street Art Festival, Accra, Ghana, August
Chale Wote Street Art Festival plays host to over 200 local and international alternative and emerging artists showcasing graffiti, paintings, photos, installations, street boxing, fashion, live street performances, African films and much more. The festival’s purpose is to bring art ‘out of the galleries and onto the streets’ for this very special James Town festival.
Cure Salée, Niger, October
This huge social and cultural celebration marks the end of the rainy season with the coming together of the Tuareg and Wodaabé people to celebrate love and life in this ‘Festival of the Nomads’. The Wodaabé tribe flock to a small town named Ingall for a dance-come-beauty contest over three days (though the festival can last over several weeks) where the men don traditional costumes headdresses and makeup to win the hearts of perspective wives.
Lake of Stars, Lake Malawi, Malawi October
Where better to enjoy music and arts than on the palm-lined shores of intimate Lake Malawi? Lake of Stars puts on three days of music, poetry, acrobatics, theatre, screenings, swimming, water sports. International headliners like Foals and Basement Jaxx have also performed at the event, which promotes and empowers local communities.
International Festival of the Sahara, Douz, Tunisia, November
Enjoy all the charms of Saharan life in Tunisia with a four-day centuries-old desert festival that includes wrestling, belly dancing, craft fairs, local bazaars and a healthy dose of traditional music, festivities and dishes. Sand dune adventure sports also feature heavily with camel racing, go karts, camel rides and sand skiing.
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