MOJA Arts Festival celebrates African-American, Caribbean arts

The 2014 MOJA Arts Festival official poster titled "Wali," by Alvin B. Glen.

Starting Thursday and running through Oct. 5, get out and celebrate the MOJA Arts Festival. This annual multimedia arts festival focuses on the African-American and Caribbean arts culture and is produced by the city of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the all-volunteer MOJA Program Committee.

Each year, the festival delights locals and visitors with its array of cultural programs, theater, dance, literary and visual arts, and lots of jazz, gospel and reggae music.

MOJA also offers many free, family-friendly events throughout the city, including Thursday's Opening Day Street Parade, which starts at 6 p.m. in Marion Square and travels to the U.S. Customhouse on East Bay Street.

The parade will feature students from many Charleston County schools, African drummers and dancers, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and members of civic organizations, says Barbara Vaughn of the city of Charleston's Office of Cultural Affairs. An opening reception will follow in the courtyard of the Dock Street Theatre.

On Friday, make your way to Brittlebank Park at 6:30 p.m. for the Reggae Block Dance featuring The Dubplates, as well as Dream Merchants and Tony Roy and the Yawd Lynk Reggae Band, African drumming and dancing with Bob Small and the Harambe Sisterhood.

On Saturday, visit the Health and Wellness Fair at Marion Square from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

On Oct. 5, be sure to attend the finale at Hampton Park starting at 4 p.m., which will feature craft vendors, ethnic and festival food, and more. This event and all of the ones listed previously are free and open to the entire family.

Some of the big events happening this year include vocalist Regina Belle performing at 8 p.m. Saturday at Family Circle Stadium with opener Rochelle Whitney Green.

At 4 p.m. Sunday, there will be A Sea Island Gospel Explosion featuring the AME Church Men's Choir, The Male Chorus of Greater St. John AME and New First Missionary Baptist Church Men's Choir and the Rev. Randolph Miller as master of ceremony. This will be at Trinity United Methodist Church.

On Monday, enjoy "Poems of the Deep Song," featuring D'Jaris Whipper Lewis, Tiffany Rice, Anna Brock and Ellen Dressler Moryl at Mt. Zion AME Church at 6 p.m.

In the visual arts element, MOJA selected Alvin B. Glen as its featured poster artist. In addition to having his image, "Wali," on the poster, there will also be an exhibition of more of Glen's work at the Art Institute of Charleston throughout the run of the festival.

There also will be a large juried exhibit at the Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture. The show "African Diaspora: Convergence and Reclamation," curated by Dr. Ade Ofunniyin, will be at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park.

Of course, these are just a few of the highlights of the festival. There is so much more going on, so be sure to check out www.mojafestival.com for the full program guide and to purchase tickets to the events that require them.

The Department of Theatre and Dance in the College of Charleston School of the Arts will stage a modern interpretation of Euripides' "The Bacchae."

"This new translation written by Irish poet Derek Mahon follows Dionysus on his quest to reveal himself as a god to his hometown of Thebes, who has banned the worship of the diety," explains Nandini McCauley of the college.

Director David Lee Nelson is excited about this upcoming production.

"I was really attracted to this play because I love the challenge of taking classics and finding what about them is still relevant. This play was written in 500 B.C. That's before Christianity. That's before Islam. Yet this is a play about gender, power and punishing people who spread rumors about their mom. That's something people can relate to forever," he says.

"The Bacchae" will begin Thursday and run through Tuesday at the Emmett Robinson Theatre in the Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St. Night performances are at 7:30 p.m., and there will be one Sunday show at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for seniors, College of Charleston students, faculty and staff.

For more information, call 953-5604 or go to www.theatre.cofc.edu.

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