The Africa Centre, a leading African institution celebrating contemporary African culture, heritage and thought leadership, is finally set to welcome patrons and supporters to its new location in Southwark, London on June 9, 2022, following a £5.6 million renovation.
The development, which came after years of planning, consultations and a little over 12 months of building and refurbishment, is expected to see the institution improve its significance as a bold and transformative bridge between the continent, Africans, and friends of Africa all over the world from its base in London, one of the world’s most international and exciting cities.
The organisation stated that Southwark was chosen as an ideal location based on its multicultural character and its proximity to several other iconic cultural institutions such as Tate Modern, the Southbank Centre, The Old and Young Vic theatres, Shakespeare’s Globe and the future site of the V&A East.
Spread over four floors, phase one of the redevelopment includes an African restaurant and lounge bar on the ground and first floors and spaces for exhibitions, debates and events on the second.
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Phase two, set to follow consequently, will see a whole floor devoted to education, connecting the UK with Africa via interactive education initiatives, teaching African history through the Centre’s digitised archives, as well as offering language classes.
Meanwhile, the fourth floor will be a business suite offering black businesses and individuals the opportunity to mingle, network, and grow.
Commenting on the renovation, Oba Nsugbe, board chair of The Africa Centre, said the organisation which was launched in 1964, has played a key role in being a home away from home for the African diaspora, as well as a safe place and key platform for African activists, intellectuals and artists to discuss and drive the African narrative.
The board chair noted that its mission and purpose have grown through the years, and transformed to not only represent the first generation of Africans, but also the second and third generation of Africans and Afro-Caribbeans.
Nsugbe added that the updated centre goes beyond a focus on arts and culture to having areas dedicated to education and learning and entrepreneurship, aimed at promoting a more wholesome engagement with the community.
Belvin Tawuya, chief marketing manager, The Africa Centre, in his remarks about the Malangatana mural, one of the key attractions of the Centre, which will be unveiled on the opening day, explained that the mural has a special significance as it has ties to the organisation’s original home in Covent Garden, London.
The mural, he explained further, was originally painted by Malangatana Ngwenya, an iconic Mozambican artist in 1987.
Other notable highlights of the event include, the launch of the solo exhibition of Sungi Mlengeya, a Tanzanian visual artist; a panel discussion on the impact of Afrobeats in shaping narratives about Africa; and a festival of community-focused activities featuring performances, market stalls, food and entertainment.