South Africa is a country with incredible potential and an amazing array of cultures. We are an ever-changing and adaptable nation that rolls with the punches no matter the situation that arises. A drought? We made waves of our own to overcome it. Loadshedding? We powered through it even if it meant turning every night into romantic, candlelit dinner dates. COVID-19? We’re on track to kick its butt and we’ve come out stronger than ever. We just don’t know when to give up. It’s the Africa in us.

Now with Heritage Day coming along in September, South Africans of all backgrounds can look forward to exploring the art, beauty and innovation of the African continent in the new Curiosity Channel (DStv 185) series Y’Africa. It’s a demonstration of how we can all celebrate our heritage together, and a different view of the Africa we see on the news. Because it shouldn’t take a Black Panther to remind us that we are, in fact, all that.

Dance, writing, design

In this new documentary series that profiles 39 artists from 10 different African countries – Tunisia to Madagascar – three artists from each country per episode talk about their unique takes on the culture in their own field of expertise. Get ready to see painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, choreographers, chefs and designers express themselves with a distinctly African flavour.

In the first episode, we meet Oumaima Manai, a young Tunisian choreographer who dreams of making an impact on the world with her dance. She has always found herself drawn to expressing herself through movement. “I started dancing at the age of 4. It was my grandparents who signed me up for dance class. After that, it was just for fun, on weekends, once a week, sometimes not at all. And little by little, I said to myself that I would love to do that,” recalls the Trisha Brown Dance Company student.

From there, we meet Sarah Diouf, the founder of Ghubar Magazine, a fashion & lifestyle digital magazine launched in 2009. Hailing from Paris, France, she later found her home in Dakar, Senegal, where she has been heavily influenced by African design – which can now be seen in all of her current creations in her Made In Africa clothing line. “I think most designers have realised that Made In Africa has a real potential for export. It is more likely to encourage local production, create jobs and enhance the quality criteria we need,” says the designer, who spent most of her early childhood in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

In episode 3, which visits Mali, we’ll also be meeting multi-instrumentalist musician Ahmed Fofana, who’s worked with great Africa’s greatest artists like Toumani Diabaté, Amadou and Mariam, Ray Lema, Cheick Tidiane Seck, and Vieux Farka Touré, and international talent like Bjork, Damon Albarn, and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Artist Amadou Sanogo will talk about his education at the National Institute of Arts in Bamako, and how he portrays the history and everyday life of Mai. And dancer and choreographer Bibata Maiga will represent the rising talent of young Africa when she talks about founding non-profit association I Dance'O, which promotes peace through dance.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

Celebrating culture

Thanks to series director Dan Assayag, we now have a show dedicated to showing the African continent in a whole new light. “Travelling to these cities to see what’s going on, giving artists the floor, revealing their backgrounds, what a great idea,” exclaims Dan. “I liked telling myself that what we were doing was going to be surprising because we’re showing things we never get to see. In human terms, it offered continual learning, and artistically, it was exciting because we were able to be as free as the artists we were showcasing,” he continues. It’s not just the artists that we’ll get an introduction too, either. They’ll all be addressing their influences and formal education at Africa’s great arts institutions and universities.

Y’Africa is a co-production from Orange and Multichoice. Béatrice Mandine, Executive Director at Orange, boasts, “I’m very proud of this fresh, new concept for showcasing the diversity and wealth of talent in Africa. Orange, as a responsible provider, wishes to promote all cultures, to support and improve the visibility of young talent on the booming African scene.”

Watch Y’Africa S1 from Friday, 4 September on Curiosity Channel (DStv 185) at 19:00

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