Festivals, Exhibitions, Biennials: Africa in the Spotlight in 2024

Voodoo africa dance

Africa is home to some of the world's most vibrant cultural events, from art and literature festivals to major biennales. 2024 promises to be an exciting year, with new festivals launching across the continent and established events reaching major milestones. This article highlights some of the can't-miss African festivals, fairs, and biennales happening in 2024.

In Benin, in Ouidah, Dive Into the Vodun Days

Every year on January 10, Benin celebrates the Vodun (or Voodoo) festival. This year, the country is proposing an event, the "Vodun Days", over two days, January 9 and 10, to celebrate the arts, the cradle of this culture.

On the program: dances of Vodun Hounvè, appearances by Egungun (spirits) and impressive Zangbetos (night guards), as well as parades in honor of deities such as Yaoïtcha and Vodun Mami Dan. On the beach, near the Door of No Return, a large open-air concert is also planned. Ouidah, a coastal city 42 kilometers from Cotonou, is also known for its role in the Atlantic slave trade from the 17th to the 19th century. With this vodun festival, the Beninese government is seeking to expand its tourist offer, particularly for people of African descent.

In Ivory Coast, Beyond the Africa Cup of Nations, a Country Celebrating with the Stell'Air Festival

The Ivorians have promised it. They are ready for the 34th Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) which takes place in their country from January 13 to February 11. Ready to energize you! One of the events: on January 20, 2024 in Abidjan, the Stell'Air Festival launches its first edition for music, football and gaming enthusiasts. On the bill, Nigerian superstar Burna Boy, king of afro-fusion filling stadiums in the United States, but also French rapper Gazo, Kiff No Beat, ElGrandeToto, Roseline Mayo...

And in the meantime, the AFCON anthem "Akwaba", performed by stars of the continent, Magic System (Ivory Coast), Mohamed Ramadan (Egypt) and Yemi Alade (Nigeria), composed by Franco-Congolese Dany Synthé, energetic and dynamic, can be streamed. A beautiful message of unity and welcome.

In Morocco, All Fired Up for the Marrakesh African Book Festival!

After a successful first edition last year, the Marrakesh African Book Festival (FLAM) is back. The writer and Nobel Prize winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio had marked this first edition with his opening speech, considering this festival "as a tribute to African identity, to the greatness and ancientness of African literature through all its voices and heritages”. He is now honorary president of Flam.

Faithful to his wish to call upon different artistic disciplines, Flam has chosen to invite, to illustrate the poster of the 2024 edition, the Malian artist Abdoulaye Konaté.

For this second edition, some forty authors - Arabic, French, English and Portuguese speakers - from more than twenty countries and three continents, will meet in Marrakesh. Visitors will be able to participate in literary cafes, attend interviews, conferences and book signings...

Marrakesh, Epicenter of Contemporary Creation on the Continent with the 1-54 Fair

For its 5th Marrakesh edition, the 1-54 contemporary African art fair returns from February 9 to 11 to the superb setting of the Mamounia, one of the most famous hotels in the world and also invests a second site in the pink city, DaDa, in the heart of the Medina.

The 2024 edition will host 27 exhibitors, including 14 galleries from the African continent. This fair, which contributes to the dynamism of the Moroccan ecosystem, will present eight Moroccan galleries this year, compared to four last year.

Spotlight on African Literature in Paris

For its 3rd edition, the Paris African Book Fair will be held in mid-March at the town hall of the 6th arrondissement, the quintessential literary district of Paris.

For the guest countries, Ivory Coast will be honored and a tribute will be paid to Henri Lopes, Congolese writer and politician, who passed away on November 2, 2023.

The largest event of its kind in France, the Paris African Book Fair illustrates the state of African literature.

This year's theme is already chosen "Breaking Down Imaginaries and Rethinking Futures". The conference program will be announced in February.

Africa Strengthens Its Place at the Venice Biennale

The final list of artists will have to wait until next February. The 60th Venice Biennale will open for seven months from April 20, 2024. The theme chosen by the Brazilian Adriano Pedrosa (curator of the international exhibition), "Foreigners Everywhere", is borrowed from a series of neon works by Claire Fontaine (artist collective), declining the expression in all languages.

Benin has announced its first participation and appointed the Nigerian Azu Nwagbogu as exhibition curator.

Unstoppable Dak'Art

The Dakar Biennale, considered one of the largest cultural events on the continent, will host 58 artists from Africa and the diaspora. The selection was unveiled in December by the artistic director of the event, Salimata Diop.

This 15th edition, under the theme "The Wake", evokes personal, social, ecological and economic transformation in a world disrupted by crises linked to climate change and socio-economic upheaval.

Essaouira Will Vibrate to the Sounds of the Gnaoua World Music Festival

The 25th edition of the bewitching Gnaoua Festival has been honoring, since 1998, a musical tradition inherited from sub-Saharan captives in what has become its setting, the beautiful city of Essaouira.

Since its beginnings, the festival, which has broadened to include other world music, has become a showcase for Morocco.

The inclusion in 2019 of the Gnaoua culture on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List has brought immense pride to all those who defend this culture, long remained in the shadows.

During the festival, "fusion" concerts feature Gnaoui artists with local and international musicians. The festival can attract more than 300,000 people.