Cape Town Opera to pay tribute to Mandela at 'Africa Utopia' in UK

Africa Utopia returns to the Southbank Centre in London, UK between 31 August and 4 September with an exciting programme of music, discussions, workshops, fashion, food, comedy and more - all celebrating the cultural diversity of Africa.

A scene from 'Mandela Trilogy'. Photo: John Snelling /
A scene from 'Mandela Trilogy'. Photo: John Snelling /

Launched in 2012 by the Southbank Centre, Africa Utopia is a festival dedicated to bringing art and ideas from Africa and its diaspora to audiences in the UK. This year's event will see South Africa's Cape Town Opera, Malian 'desert rock' band Terakaft and award-winning Nigerian guitarist Femi Temowo bringing the sounds of Africa to London during the five-day extravaganza.

The Cape Town Opera in partnership with the Wales Millennium Centre will present the story of one of the world's most iconic figures, South African statesman Nelson Mandela. Presented in three parts by a cast of over 60 performers (including three different incarnations of Mandela), Mandela Trilogy will reflect both a life of extraordinary contrasts and an overarching theme of unflinching courage in the face of adversity. 

Cape Town Opera’s celebration of Mandela’s life is a spectacular portrait of a man who touched hearts and minds around the world. The contrasting phases of his journey are recreated through strikingly divergent styles of music. The upbeat jazz- and swing-influenced songs of Sophiatown in the central section of the piece are framed on either side by more familiar contemporary opera forms. For more about Mandela Trilogy, visit the show's website or watch the video below.


Terakaft (meaning 'caravan' in Tamasheq) have embraced the electric guitar and made it their own. The band was formed in 2001 by Sanou Ag Ahmed (then based in Kidal, Mali) with Kedou Ag Ossad, who was a member of the original line-up of the popular band Tinariwen. Terakaft recorded their first studio album, Bismilla (The Bko Sessions), in four days at Bogolan Studios in Bamako, Mali. The band then embarked on their first European tour in 2007. Their second album, Akh Issudar, was released in 2008. Fusing traditional sounds and modern pop influences, the band will bring the best in North African music to the UK festival.


UK-based jazz virtuoso Femi Temowo first rose to prominence as a sideman for the critically acclaimed British saxophonist Soweto Kinch – a collaboration that resulted in a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize, a BBC Jazz Award for Best New Group and several MOBO Awards. Performing at the upcoming UK festival with his trio, Femi will present new material from his latest album, The Music Is The Feeling, which channels the sounds of Temowo’s childhood growing in Nigeria listening to pioneers such as Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey. More about the album in the video below.


Away from the music, Africa Utopia's various panel discussions will also explore issues relevant to the African continent. For example, a session dubbed #HowToFixNigeria will explore gender inequality in Nigeria and the ways in which women (and men) are fighting back against patriarchal oppression. Among the key questions the session aims to address is whether or not the focus on gender in development projects has actually resulted in any progress towards dismantling patriarchy in the country.

For more details and the full schedule of activities, visit the Southbank Centre website


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