Continuous live music and Southern spiced foods illuminate African-American heritage and inspiration in the soulful and fun-filled Seattle Center Festál: Festival Sundiata – Black Arts Fest, Saturday, 12 p.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, 12 p.m.-6 p.m., June 11-12, at Seattle Center Armory, Mural Amphitheatre and Fisher Roof.
The 36th annual festival opens with a visual arts exhibition celebrating cultural expression that features works by Jolyn Gardner, Infinate Milum, Shurvon Haynes and Eric Salisbury. An artists reception at 6 p.m., Friday, June 10 offers music and spoken word performances, wine and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a roundtable discussion of art in the city beginning at 7 p.m. The visual arts exhibition continues through the end of the festival.
Two packed festival days feature headliners funk and rhythm and blues band Con Funk Shun (YouTube), reggae artist Clinton Fearon (YouTube) and Earth, Wind & Fire tribute band Kalimba, along with musical artists representing a wide variety of genres. Explore African music by Soyaya and Spirit of Ojah; R&B by Funk E. Fusion, Che Blaq and Septimus; hip-hop by Jeff Turner, Baldy, J-Mar Da Silk, Koga Shabazz; and jazz by Eugenie Jones and Lance Randall & the Nu Jazz Playas. Other musical performances include Dub Lounge International, Charles Mack Band, Jerusalem’s Gate, Mahala Provost, Malisa Jones, Michael Powers, Otoqui Reyes, Reggie Garrett & the Snake Oil Peddlers, Robin Henderson, Twisted Groove and Total Experience Gospel Choir with Patrinell Wright.
The festival hosts a variety of workshops and discussions. Cooking demonstrations entitled “Smokin’ Black Chefs” run throughout the weekend on the Armory balcony. The African American Writer’s Alliance leads a series of conversations around the theme “The Poet, the Musician and the Artist Poets” 12 p.m.-2:30 p.m., and international award-winning artist Marita Dingus teaches African doll making using recycled materials, 2 p.m.-4 p.m on Saturday (Vimeo). Other weekend sessions include “Pass the Torch: The Voices of our Ancestors” with Gary Giles, “Juvenile Justice” with Marcus Stubblefield, classes on herb gardening and talks by author Carol Parnell, author Debrena Jackson Gandy and author-artist Roosevelt Lewis.
Experience dance performances by Dora Oliveira and Dance Brazil, Afua Kouyate, Northwest Tap Connection and Styles of Steppin’, and theater by The Mahogany Project. Festival-goers may join the dancing in a Chicago two-step lesson in the Armory, 4:30 p.m. and Zumba class on Fisher Roof, 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. An African dance class for children enlivens Fisher Roof on Sunday.
Tour a vibrant marketplace offering diverse dishes including alligator tail, caribou in a bun, Kansas City style BBQ, fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, roasted corn on the cob, classic fried chicken, catfish, hush puppies, shrimp grits, seafood gumbo and sweet potato pie. Browse booths selling African clothing and woodcarvings, custom jewelry, natural beauty products, clothing, masks, greeting cards and instant photographs.
Seattle Center Festál is a program of Seattle Center Productions. Admission is free-of-charge. For more information on this collection of ethnic cultural events and other Seattle Center public programming, visit Seattle Center or call 206 684-7200. Learn more about Seattle Center Festál: Festival Sundiata – Black Arts Fest.