Festivals. A place where people looking to have a great time can dance, listen to great music, celebrate, party, have fun, and relax. They happen all over Africa for many different reasons. Some celebrate religion, some the new year, some art, some the harvest or the full moon — whatever the reason, every month, somewhere in Africa, you’ll find people descending on a location to celebrate and share a common experience.
Now, if you don’t like crowds then these events probably aren’t for you. But if you feel like getting dirty, staying up late, dancing, or just want to enjoy the energy of tens of thousands of people, check out some of these festivals:
Splashy Fen Festival
Where: Underberg, KwaZulu Natal When: 18- 22 April 2019 Type: Music Festival
Splashy Fen is South Africa’s longest running and oldest music festival.It is so much more than just a music festival, it is a festival that celebrates life, art, music, people, love laughter, fun and enjoyment, all within a world heritage site, The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Mountain.
The festival started in 1990 after a night of red wine around a fire when Peter Ferraz and Bart Fokkens decided that the farm Splashy Fen was a perfect location for a music gathering. Expecting only a hundred or so fans, the inaugural festival attracted some 400 musicians and festival goers, and by 1995, had become the biggest music festival in the country.
Where: Tankwa Karoo, South Africa When: April 29th through May 5th, 2019
AfrikaBurn – South Africa’s version of the famous US festival, Burning Man – takes place each year in the vast and desolate Tankwa Karoo. This annual gathering of creative expression culminates in the erection of a temporary city of art where theme camps, cool costumes and inspired, impromptu and inconceivable performances come alive… particularly at nightfall, when all kinds of juices are flowing…
Where: Malkerns Valley, Swaziland
When: May 24th through 26th, 2019 What: Backlit by fiery mountain sunsets across acres of pristine farmland, eSwatini’s internationally acclaimed three day Bushfire Festival features music, dance, art, theatre, poetry, circus performers and more, celebrating creative expression whilst promoting social responsibility, stimulating the economy, and drawing talent and tourists from across Africa and around the world.
Where: Makhanda, South Africa When: 27 June – 7 July 2019
What: The National Arts Festival is an annual festival of performing arts in Makhanda, South Africa. The festival runs for 11 days, from the last week of June to the first week of July every year. The Festival programme includes performing arts (theatre, dance, stand-up comedy and live music), visual art exhibitions, films, talks and workshops, a large food and craft fair and historical tours of the city. The National Arts Festival also runs a children’s arts festival over the same period and a number of other festivals take place in Makhanda over the period of the National Arts Festival, such as the National Youth Jazz Festival.
Performances take place across the city in approximately 60 venues (such as theatres, churches, schools) as well as in various outdoor locations for the street performances.
When: 8 – 28 July Where: Durban What: Arguably the biggest film event in South Africa, the DIFF brings together around 400 filmmakers from around the world, featuring their thought-provoking films around African or South African subject matter. Screenings are held around Durban, and there are plenty of workshops and talks for aspiring filmmakers.
When: August 15 – 17 Where: Kampala, Uganda What: Writivism is a Kampala based festival that supports emerging writers and promotes African Literature. Through book launches, film screenings, panel discussions, poetry and music performances, visual arts and photography exhibitions, keynote addresses.
When: The 25th edition of OppiKoppi has been postponed until 2020. Where: Northam, South Africa What: Oppikoppi is one of the biggest multiple day music festivals in South Africa, held in the mining town of Northam in the Limpopo province. The festival attracts more than 20.000 people each year. It is multi-genre music festival and takes its name from a colloquial abbreviation of an Afrikaans phrase meaning ‘on the hill’, and the festival’s stunning rural location reflects this.
The music on offer is a real mix of anything from hard rock and heavy metal to hip-hop and jazz via folk, house, acoustic and indie, with a handful of international acts joining the extensive lineup of South African talent.
When: Dates Are Unconfirmed. Usually held in September. Where: Jing, Uganda What: Festival organizers translate the Swahili word nyege nyege as “an uncontrollable urge to move, shake, or dance.” Expect a melting pot of musical genres that mix traditional rhythms and modern electronics: balani (a piece of percussive, high-energy party music from Mali), kwaito (a house music subgenre from South Africa), kuduro (uptempo Angolan dance music with a tropical vibe), Ugandan dancehall, and more. The festival gets bigger and better every year.
When: 16 – 25 August 2019 Where: Jamestown, Accra, Ghana What: Chale Wote is an alternative platform that brings art, music, dance and performance out of the galleries and onto the streets of James Town, Accra. The festival includes street painting, graffiti murals, photo exhibitions, interactive installations, a food and fashion marketplace, live street performances, extreme sports, African Cinema pavilion, street boxing, a fashion parade, a music block party, design labs and much more.
Where: Gaborone, Botswana. When: September 19-21. What: The Gaborone Book Festival’s main mission is to encourage and inspire people to read and share the transformative power of reading. This festival features both local Batswana and African authors. Through panels, conversations, talks, music and food, the festival covers topical issues in politics, women related issues, human rights, education, fiction, non-fiction, travel, business, and cookery.
Where: Lake Malawi When: 28 – 30 September 2019 What: On the sandy shores of Lake Malawi, the feel-good Lake of Stars festival (Sept 28-30) embraces African music and the arts. Visitors from more than 30 countries come to enjoy Western and Malawian bands in the “warm heart of Africa”. Aiming to benefit local communities, events include talks and workshops, theatre, acrobatics and film screenings.
Where: Lagos, Nigeria When: October 24-27 2019 What: Ake Arts & Book Festival is four days of cultural immersion. The festival aims to showcase the very best of contemporary African literature, poetry, music, art, film, and theatre.
Where: Cape Town, South Africa When: October 4th through 6th, 2019 What: Rocking the Daisies is one of South Africa’s biggest outdoor gathering, and it’s become one of the highlights of the festival calendar. The event takes place on the stunning Cloof Wine Estate, just outside Darling, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town. The festival hosts over 25,000 people and caters to every taste. Whether you’re into rock, folk, house, indie, drum and bass, or hip-hop there’s sure to be something going down on one of the many stages to get you going.
Where: Soweto, South Africa When: December 5 – 8. What: From humble beginnings in 2016, Abantu Book Festival has become an annual pilgrimage for black writers and readers held in Soweto to celebrate the rich and diverse African literary heritage.
Abantu presents an extensive programme that is a feast for the whole family, which includes poetry and musical performances, writing and publishing workshops, panel discussions and in-conversations, dance, as well as film-screening woven into the mix.
Over four days, the best poets, novelists, playwrights, biographers, children’s writers, literary scholars, musicians, actors, activists, thinkers, and readers from as far as can be imagined, transform the historic location of Soweto into a literary village.
Where: Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge, Drakensberg Mountains When: 29 December 2019 – 01 January 2020 What: Smoking Dragon continues each year to bring a rich array of music and a colourful crowd of interesting creative, artistic and fascinating festival-goers. Held annually at the foot of the iconic Amphitheatre, in the KZN Northern Drakensberg and a mere three hours drive from Durban and Johannesburg.
Where: Constitutional Hill When: 30 – 31 December 2019 What: Afropunk takes place annually in Paris, Brooklyn, Atlanta, and Johannesburg. The festival brings together young people of all backgrounds interested in music, art, film, lifestyle sports, fashion, photography, and more. It takes place at the historically significant Constitution Hill with an impressive consisting of local and international acts.
Where: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe When: 29 – 31 December 2019 What: The Vic Falls Carnival is no ordinary new years eve party. It is a three-day action-packed event filled with party trains, booze and lots of adrenaline pumping activities. For three days you join Africa’s top artists and thousands of adventurous music-lovers for an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime festival set at one of the Seven Wonders of The World!