Saturday, October 14, 2006

Nkosi Sikele iAfrica

I dragged myself from my death bed - ok, it wasn't as fatal as I thought, and I suffer illness like a man - to go to the African Women's Forum a cappella performance in honour of Black History Month tonight, and I am so glad that I did. I asked Mum and Kate to come with me and we all had such an amazing time. In addition to honouring Black History Month, the event was also a forerunner of next year's commemorative projects to mark the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the foreign slave trade. For those of you who may not know the intricate details of the British Empire's role in both the rise and fall of slavery and the slave trade, then check out the brilliant web based resource, Understanding Slavery:

There are going to be some fantastic events coming up to mark this Bicentenary next year, so keep reading the blog to find out more, as I am lucky enough to have already become involved with two of the projects that will be running in Portmouth: the African Women's Performance, October 2007, a play on the Transatlantic Crossing at the New Theatre Royal and an exhibition of schools' work on the legacy of slavery and the slave trade which will also run for October 2007, at the Portsmouth City Museum; and I am also involved with the Royal Naval Museum's exhibition, Chasing Freedom, which tells the story of the Navy's West Africa Squadron and their role in the suppression of the slave trade, running from January 27th 2007 for the year.

Tonight the African Women's Forum, a group entirely run by volunteers, and some accompanying friends from the Portsmouth community sang a beautiful selection of slave songs and spiritual anthems from Africa. I was moved to tears by the end of the soulful Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Glorious Marie Costa, whose sheer energy and commitment to the promotion of the African and Caribbean community in Portsmouth should in itself be an inspiration to anyone who meets her, introduced and compered the evening. She ended the evening by leading and inviting the audience to dance with band and singers on the stage - man, can that woman move!

Kate, Mum and I all signed up to join the choir and they received their first invitation to perform professionally at another show in the interval of the show - watch this space as next time we may be singing with them!!

DrumNation provided the most pelvis-trembling African drumming in the interval and at the close of the evening. That's the first time I've been to the New Theatre Royal and eaten Caribbean food ( a plateful for a pound!), then been able to get up on stage and throw myself about - not that I did, I wasn't feeling bold enough, but I was thrilled just to have the chance! The NTR should give serious consideration to holding another night like this, I know there would be a dozen of my friends and family alone who would love to come. Except next time, I may be in the choir.

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