Pockets of Africa in London

With our Nigerian tapas restaurant, we aim to give you a taste of Nigeria without you having to leave London. And we also know there’s a whole range of other African cultural experiences in London that you, our chop-chat-chillers would love. So for this month’s blog, we hand over to Jessica Laditan, the founder and CEO of Pop Up Africa, a UK based, Africa-inspired pop-up events company. Working with partners such as Facebook, The British Council and The Southbank Centre, Pop Up Africa hosts events to showcase the best in African culture and if there’s an African-related event in London, you can bet it’s a date in Jessica's calendar.

'You can take the girl out of Africa but you can't take Africa out of the girl.'

Pop Up Africa's Jessica Laditan enjoying Lagos

Pop Up Africa's Jessica Laditan enjoying Lagos

London is home to over 65,000 Africans so it's no surprise that pockets of African influences can be found across the capital. London became my home when I was two but like a moth to a flame when I’m not organising African-inspired events I can be found gravitating towards them. Whilst there is a whole host of Africa-inspired events taking place in London each week, here is a list of my top five:

1) Africa Writes

Egyptian writer Nawal El Saadawi signing books at last year's festival (Credit: Ivan Gonzalez)

Egyptian writer Nawal El Saadawi signing books at last year's festival (Credit: Ivan Gonzalez)

Africa Writes is the Royal African Society’s annual literature festival. This annual event is about showcasing both emerging and established literary talent from the African continent and its diaspora in what is now the UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing. The festival usually takes place at The British Library and features book launches, readings, author appearances, panel discussions, youth and children’s workshops, and other activities. Previous headline speakers include some of my favourite authors, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Noble Prize winner Wole Soyinka and the time I met Soyinka at one of these events I was daughter of the year when I got my dad a signed copy of one of his books. Whilst the African community is known for its music, dance and fashion we also have amazing authors and I love that this festival celebrates that as books are so important for documenting and sharing our stories and history.

2) Gallery of African Art 

Royal Chief by Chief Nike Davies-Okundauo and Chief Tola Wewe

Royal Chief by Chief Nike Davies-Okundauo and Chief Tola Wewe

Situated in the West End, here you can find some great exhibitions featuring African artists both from the continent or based in the UK. Their most recent exhibition showcased Nigeria’s internationally acclaimed artists, Chief Nike Davies-Okundauo and Chief Tola Wewe alongside Tanzanian artist George Lllanga. I visited the gallery last year to catch the Global African Profiles Exhibition, which showcased a collection of work by Angolan artist Daniela Ribeiro alongside Nigerian artist Ndidi Emefiele. It’s great to have a permanent space in London, which exhibits contemporary African art and I recommend keeping a close eye on the website for details of their next exhibition.

3) Afrobeats Karaoke

Afrobeats Karaoke in action

Afrobeats Karaoke in action

When I was growing up Afrobeat (think Fela Kuti) was something that you only ever heard at home or at parties but nowadays its younger sibling, Afrobeats, is flooding mainstream radio stations and can be heard on popular music channels such as MTV Base with artists such as Wizkid and DJ’s like Abrantee waving the flag for African music. Whether you should or shouldn’t sing in public, Afrobeats Karaoke is a good night out - there’s a fun and chilled vibe about it. In a slightly unconventional way attendees are not provided with the words to the songs but people just make the song their own, have fun with it and there tends to be lots of audience participation.  

 4) 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair  

Malick Sidibe's collection at 1:54 London 2016

Malick Sidibe's collection at 1:54 London 2016

1:54 is the leading international art fair dedicated to contemporary African art. I love the name which is a reference to the 54 countries that make up the African continent. The event was at Somerset House last year and will be back later this year for its 5th edition. Images of Zak Ove’s installation in the Somerset House courtyard were all over the gram last year and my favourite feature was Malick Sidibe’s photographic art.

5) Film Africa

Film Africa 2016 Opening Gala (Credit: Ivan Gonzalez)

Film Africa 2016 Opening Gala (Credit: Ivan Gonzalez)

Film Africa is the Royal African Society’s annual London film festival celebrating the best African cinema from across the continent and diaspora. Now in its seventh year, it is the UK’s largest festival of African film and culture. Taking place across a number of cinemas in London such as the BFI, the Ritzy in Brixton and Hackney Picture House, alongside the screenings there is also a vibrant series of events including panel discussions, workshops and Film Africa LIVE! music nights. I am a fan of the festival as it’s an opportunity to catch some great films, particularly documentaries, exploring themes such as politics, sexuality and love all within an African context. Often these are films that I’ve not seen before and might not have seen otherwise. Past screenings have included the documentary, ‘Mandela, My Dad and Me’ featuring actor Idris Elba.  

Now I know I said just five things so consider this next one a bonus.

6) Africa Utopia at Southbank Centre

Cape Town Opera performing the Nelson Mandela Trilogy (Credit: John Snelling)

Cape Town Opera performing the Nelson Mandela Trilogy (Credit: John Snelling)

Southbank Centre’s Africa Utopia is an annual festival celebrating the arts and culture of one of the world's most dynamic and fast-changing continents. Without being biased because Pop Up Africa run the festival’s food market, it is by far one of my favourite African events in London. Hannah Pool and the rest of the Southbank team curate such a vibrant programme featuring a range of talks, workshops, music, performances and fashion. Some of last year’s highlights include African Yoga on the Southbank Centre’s roof garden, Cape Town Opera’s Mandela Trilogy, an operatic tribute to the life of Nelson Mandela and BBC Young Musician Sheku Keanneh-Mason performing at the Royal Festival Hall for the first time. This event brings so many people out and I always leave feeling proud of the amazing talent emanating from the African community.

And if that still isn’t enough for you, Pop Up Africa presents Africa at Spitalfields this Bank Holiday Monday (29th May 2017) from 10am – 5pm. We’ll be there with our new street food menu, as will a whole host of other African-inspired brands from fashion to arts and crafts.