A ZO-Live Team Excursion
With origins deeply rooted in culture, The Pan-African Film Festival (PAFF) began in 1985 in West Africa in the capital of Burkina Faso. In 1992 famed actors Danny Glover, Ja’net Dubois and executive director Ayuko Babu organized the first official festival in Los Angeles with Whoopi Goldberg as its premiere co-host. Founded with a mission to promote cultural understanding among peoples of African descent through exhibiting art and film, the first festival featured over 40 films by black directors from four continents.
Pan-Africanism is a worldwide movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all indigenous and diaspora ethnic groups of African descent. Amidst the many lush kingdoms that span our globe there are endless amounts of talent and history to be discovered and revered. Since its initiation PAFF is the most distinguished celebration of Pan-African cultures, and is the critically acclaimed “biggest Black film and arts festival and Black History Month Activation in the United States”. In addition to showcasing new, high-quality, and rare Black films from all over the world, there are enriching panels and workshops and unique Q & A’s from select filmmakers. Entertainment and edification are synced with the most skilled craftsmanship of art, jewelry, clothing, and artifacts to bring about a vibrant and immersive cultural experience.
ZO’s live team was honored to be drenched in all the verve. This year marked the 30th year for PAFF and was hosted at The Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Mall and Theater in Los Angeles, California. The festival did not shy away from making its presence known and boldly permeated the shopping center in its entirety. Reserving a wing of the theater for its abundance of films, hosting workshops on every veranda, and ruling the stores with an extravagant selection of vendors. It was as if PAFF was the mall itself (if PAFF could have a resident market at the mall every week that is something I’d like to get behind!).
Arriving at the beginning of the day, one of the first films up for screening was a political love story set in 1950’s Zanzibar called Tug Of War (Vuta N’Kuvute) 2022 based on a novel by Adam Shafi. The story takes place in colonial-era Zanzibar and follows forbidden lovers Denge, and Yasmin, a Mswahili revolutionary and runaway Indian-Zanzibari bride. A story of transformation, resilience, and passion is portrayed with vibrant colors and intriguing angles while delving into what life was like for Zanzbiaris during British Colonial rule – a part of history unknown to many. The film is subtitled in English as the characters speak mainly in Swahili and some Swedish. Tug Of War is a tale of love during a time of strife highlighting the beauty of human nature when faced with impossible decisions. I’m an avid lover of world music and this film includes a few bewitching traditional songs sung by a supporting character. It helped remind me of the strength of humanity, and who isn’t swooned by a good love story?
Our next adventure was exploring the art fest located inside the mall. Immediately you’re met with ornate paintings of every color and size, each artist’s booth is filled to the brim with provocative works that demand your heart to soften, and your mind to wander.
Artists from multiple continents along with locally loved veterans grace every space with sculptures, carvings, wall-murals, and collages — all delicately detailing stories of the rich history that lives on in the artist’s veins. After much time spent open-mouthed, and wide-eyed, appreciating such talented works we headed upstairs to check out the clothing/jewelry section. This is where my fancy lies. I am not new to African fashions by any means, but the power contained in every piece was saturated with intensity. Dashikis, Kabas (a long wrap-around skirt and matching blouse with ties at the waist), dresses, and regalia of all kinds! Every piece of jewelry was elaborate, majestic, and fit for royalty! All in all, our time was well spent making connections and stimulating our senses. The importance of carrying on these traditions will continue to be displayed with elegance in PAFF’s hands.
“Afro-centricity is an intellectual paradigm that privileges the centricity of Africans within the context of their own historical experiences.” – Molefi Asante.
Throughout the epic of all the events that have spanned from the beginning of life, people have toiled. When the rest of the world seems to be against you, reaching inside yourself and connecting to your roots helps empower your being so that nothing and no one can bring you down. Even in the face of war and destruction, promoting peace through the arts is the strongest weapon of all. We at ZO are proud to be a part of this celebration and look forward to many more PAFF events to come. We appreciate PAFF’s efforts and are grateful to have been enlightened.
For More Info:
Pan African Film & Arts Festival