Aspen Celebrates Africa in June

March 26, 2007  • Institute Contributor

Aspen Celebrates Africa in June
Five Cultural Organizations Explore the Stories, Music, Politics and Film of Africa

(March 22, 2007) Aspen, CO … It’s some 9,000 miles from Aspen to Africa, but, thanks to five cultural organizations in Aspen, traveling to the continent just got a whole lot shorter and no passport is necessary for the trip.

During the last week of June, Aspen explores Africa, as the town’s leading arts and educational nonprofits celebrate the stories, music, ideas and film of the continent during a series of events — some of them linked, some serendipitous and all of them complementary. Kicking off Aspen’s summer season, the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, Aspen Music Festival and School, Aspen Institute, Jazz Aspen Snowmass and Aspen Film each will have Africa-based programs that are strong enough to draw a full house on their own, but together create an irresistible tide of cultural adventures.

Bringing together some of the greatest living African artists and storytellers, the series of events offers a rare exploration of the many sides of this great continent and of how its ancient cultures have filtered into the African American experience. In just one week, one can listen to a Nobel Prize-winning author tell stories and talk about the oral tradition; attend a concert with a premier American jazz musician and Ghanaian drum masters; sit in on a panel discussion with six writers who are creating today’s African literary culture; see a film that gives new perspective on the African experience and brush shoulders with the continent’s leaders.

“Africa is often referred to as the cradle of civilization and has given birth to some of the richest and most diverse culture in history, including music, mythology, song, writing and, more recently, film,” said Lisa Consiglio, executive director of the Aspen Writers’ Foundation.  “This year, the Aspen Writers’ Foundation is proud to join hands with several of Aspen’s finest arts organizations to bring the stories and sounds of Africa to our local stages.”

“Each of Aspen’s cultural organizations operates at an international level, bringing the world’s best thinkers, artists and educators together in an atmosphere of interchange and inspiration unmatched anywhere in the world,” said Alan Fletcher, president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School. “This year’s collaboration is one of these special happenings that creates something more important and exciting than any one group could create on their own. The exchange of art and ideas around the culture of Africa will be nothing short of dazzling.”

“Africa: The Origin of Stories”       June 24 to 28, plus film schedule to be announced
The Aspen Writers’ Foundation will immerse participants in the literary culture of Africa during its 31st annual Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival. Flying under the banner, “Africa: The Origin of Stories,” the 2007 festival brings together an historic gathering of renowned writers with ties to the continent — some of whom are rock stars in their home countries — including: Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Leila Aboulela, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Binyavanga Wainaina, Alexandra Fuller, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (moderator) and more. These and other literary lights will be featured in this five-day celebration of the words, stories and ideas (think author readings, craft talks, panel discussions, workshops, live music and parties), which will be held June 24-28 at The Gant and Belly Up. In addition, the AWF is collaborating with Aspen Film, to curate a selection of acclaimed contemporary short and feature films complementing the month’s Africa events. Aspen Summer Words Festival passes are $200; single tickets will go on sale in June.

Wynton Marsalis’ Congo Square with Yacub Addy and Odadaa!      June 26
The Aspen Music Festival and School, in collaboration with Jazz Aspen Snowmass, presents jazz icon and Pulitzer Prize-winner Wynton Marsalis, conducting the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) in Congo Square, June 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Benedict Music Tent. Marsalis’ work was inspired by the public square in New Orleans which was, from the mid-1700s to the late-1800s, the only public space in America where Africans could gather and share their unique rhythms, songs and dances. For this work that blends musical styles and traditions, JLCO will be joined by Congo Square co-writer and Ghanaian drum master Yacub Addy and Addy’s nine-piece ensemble of Ghanaian drummers/vocalists Odadaa! Single ticket levels are $40 and $80.

Africa Leadership Initiative at ACT II      June 28 to 30
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Aspen Institute’s Henry Crown Fellowship Program, and the first convening of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, which is comprised of nearly 600 Fellows from 26 different countries. Some 15-20 Fellows from the Africa Leadership Initiative in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa will participate in the dialogue, enriching the discussion with their continent’s perspective on leadership.  This celebration, dubbed ACT II, provides the first opportunity for Fellows from all different classes and leadership initiatives to come together, share ideas, and collaborate on finding solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our time.  Inspirational leaders, including writer/scholars Anthony Appiah, Wole Soyinka and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as well as IDEO founder David Kelley will be featured at the plenary sessions to present and dialogue with the Fellows and to further inspire greater collective action on the leadership challenges they face today. ACT II runs from June 28-30 at the Aspen Meadows Resort.

Travel Deals
Discount accommodations are available to participants in the Africa events. The Gant, a luxury condominium resort at the base of Aspen Mountain, offers reduced rates starting at $170 for a 1-bedroom condo (usually $295) during the last week of June. Amenities include heated outdoor pools, fitness center and tennis courts, full hotel services and complimentary in-town shuttle. Offer good for bookings by May 10. Mention “Aspen Summer Words Participant” to take advantage of this rate.

The Aspen Writers’ Foundation, Colorado’s oldest nonprofit literary organization, has been bringing readers and writers together since 1976. Additional information and box office are available at and 970.925.3122.

The Aspen Music Festival and School is America’s premier music festival, presenting more than 350 musical events during its nine-week summer season. Tickets and passes may be purchased at and 970.925.9042.

The Aspen Institute, founded in 1950, is an international nonprofit dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Their flagship leadership initiative is the Henry Crown Fellowship Program. For more information, please visit or email

Jazz Aspen Snowmass has been consistently recognized for its unique marriage of world-class music to an unparalleled natural and intimate setting, and its impeccable hospitality for artist and audiences alike. More information is available at 970.920.4996 and

With a mission to enlighten, enrich, educate and entertain through film, Aspen Film is one of Colorado’s liveliest media arts organizations with festivals, film series and education programs year-round. More information is available at 970.925.6882 and

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Aspen Writers’ Foundation

Lara Whitley • 970.925.3122 ext. 2# •

Aspen Music Festival & School
Janice Szabo • 970.205.5071 •

Aspen Institute / Henry Crown Fellowship Program
Martha Lange • 805.962.9412 •

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