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Sub-Saharan Africa activities draw kids to FAME

March 17, 2019

Chief Condra Ridley, a local storyteller, has told the African fairy tale of Anansi many times.

“Oh my goodness, I can’t event count, but I’ve never done it quite like this with the youth orchestra behind me and the Fort Wayne ballet,” Ridley said Saturday at FAME, the annual weekend highlighting talented young artists, musicians and dancers in northeast Indiana.

Saturday kicked off the 32nd annual Festival for Art and Music in Education at Grand Wayne Center, drawing students ages 8 to 14, as well as families, friends and mentors.

This year’s theme is “Sub-Saharan Africa,” so the Imaginarium room was full of activities allowing children to create djembe and Swahili drums, Maasai necklaces and bracelets, African tribal shields and masks, Indebele dolls and Kufa hats, among other African-related crafts.

Next year’s theme will be South and Central American, said T. Irmscher, FAME’s executive director.

“We’ve been around the world once and we’re going back around,” Imscher said.

The biggest draw at the Imaginarium was Nicholas Sironka, a Maasai visual artist from Kenya, on hand to teach the art of batik : created with the use of hot wax and cold water fabric dye.

Each child got a small square of fabric to decorate, often with the aid of Sironka, and then color to apply.

Sisters Sheila Moore and Deborah Bratton brought their respective grandchildren : Damarious and Danajh Walker and Nakayla Chapman : to the batik table.

Damarious asked for his initials, which Sironka drew for him.

Damarious was there to “have fun and get to make stuff for me and my baby cousin and for my mom,” he said.

The sisters heard about the festival from social media and television, they said.

The Griot Drum Ensemble from Indianapolis also performed for the crowd, which usually amounts to about 15,000, Irmscher said.

Ridley will perform today at 3 p.m. to music performed at the Celebration of Youth Concert featuring the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Youth Symphony Orchestra and Junior Strings Ensemble, the Fort Wayne Ballet Youth Company and the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir.

Local fourth-graders have been working with FAME composer-in-residence David Crowe to compose an orchestral piece that will accompany Ridley.

Over the school year, chosen students create a musical signature that is incorporated into the piece and performed live.

“I’ll probably feel like I’m up in the clouds with the sky god Nyame,” Ridley said, contemplating today’s performance.

The concert is in Anthony Wayne Ballroom at Grand Wayne.

FAME continues today from noon to 5 p.m.

For more information, go to www.famearts.org.

jduffy@jg.net