The 20th annual Kuumba Festival kicks off its celebration of African American cultural art Thursday, June 25, at the Knoxville Museum of Art. The four-day event, sponsored by African American Appalachian Arts Inc. with support from the Minority Student Affairs and Black Cultural Programming Committee at UT is the largest African American festival in East Tennessee.
Thursday’s opening event, The Taste of Africa, features an African buffet, artist exhibits, live jazz music, the Kuumba Watoto Drum and Dance Company, spoken word performances and hands-on arts and crafts. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. and admission is $10. UT students, faculty and staff enter free with a valid UT ID.
Events continue Friday on Market Square with the Youth Arts Extravaganza, 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. The Junkanu Parade begins on Gay Street at 6 p.m. The parade will feature the Free Spirit Stilt Walkers, Kuumba Watoto Dance and Drum Company and other festival participants including church and community groups. The trek down Gay Street culminates in a live concert on Market Square with reggae jazz fusion artists Inner Visions from the Virgin Islands.
The festival moves from downtown to Chilhowee Park for events Saturday and Sunday. Admission both days is $5 before 5 p.m. and $10 after 5 p.m. Children 6 years old and younger are free. UT students, faculty and staff enter free with a valid UT ID. Gates are open 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Saturday for the African Market Place with traditional crafts, clothing and foods, the World Children’s Village and two entertainment stages. Center stage heats up at 7 p.m. with the Kuumba Watoto Dance and Drum Company. R&B recording artist Lyfe Jennings will take the stage at 8 p.m.
On Sunday, gates are open from noon until 9 p.m. The African Market Place will be open and Gospel in the Park will perform, featuring Christian comedian Chocolate. The Knoxville Zoological Garden’s petting zoo will be in the Children’s World Village from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. Recording artist Kelly Price takes the stage at 7 p.m.
The first Kuumba Festival was organized in 1989 by local Knoxville artists and community activists who were looking to showcase local African American art and artists. The festival allows AAAA to serve the greater Knoxville community through its cultural activities. This year’s festival brings together more that 200 entertainers, live demonstrations and more than 100 crafts people and food vendors. Approximately 15,000 people attend the citywide event.
For more information on festival events, visit http://kuumbafesttn.com.