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Nigerian singer, dancer Wunmi brings authentic expression to African World Festival in Detroit

Nigerian singer, dancer Wunmi brings authentic expression to African World Fest

Wunmi COURTESY PHOTO

Wunmi Olaiya COURTESY PHOTO

By Steve Furay

Special to the Michigan Citizen 

For the second time this year, Wunmi, the esteemed international singer, dancer and fashion designer, will grace the stage of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to bring her unique performance to the people of Detroit. Wunmi will highlight the performances of the 32 Annual African World Festival on Sunday evening, concluding a weekend of music, dance, vendors, art and more. The annual festival celebrating African and African diasporic culture takes place at the Charles Wright Museum, Friday-Sunday, Aug. 15-17, 11 a.m. – 11. p.m. 

Wunmi’s first performance this year in Detroit came in March at the Black Women Rock concert organized and hosted by poet jessica Care moore. The day following the concert, a panel discussion with the Black Women Rock artists was held, where listeners had a chance to hear from Wunmi about her experiences as an artist, woman and living representation of her ancestors.

“I’m a full time artist,” said Wunmi, who was born Ibiwunmi Omotayo Olufunke Felicity Olaiya in the U.K. to Nigerian parents, who raised her primarily in Lagos, Nigeria. “To do that, you choose, you make choices strategy. I did it without knowing I was doing it. I love to dress, but the dressing wasn’t about dressing up, I didn’t want anyone else to look like me.

“Choosing as an artist life,” she said. “You have to figure out between the loving it and the pain built. You do something you love and you come home and you haven’t eaten, and your rent is due. The strategy. It is a strategy between us.”

Wunmi’s debut album was released in 2006, titled “A.L.A. (Africans Living Abroad),” which featured a video for the song “Crossover,” showing her dancing through an urban African street. The song asks the question “why don’t you cross over,” a question many music artists are asked as they weigh the balance between being true to their art and pleasing a mass audience.

Speaking in the distinguished manner of wisdom, Wunmi spoke of the challenges of being an artist for social change during an era where entertainment options are often dictated by the financial bottom line of the corporation producing the art.

“I think everything has come down to the one thing that America is supposed to stand for,” she said. “Let the truth be told, so much has been thrown under the bus for the Benjamin (hundred dollar bill), culture, self-respect. Who are you, what do you stand for? Respect our elders, raising the children, the information that we’re not sharing it’s not that it’s not there, but we’re too busy chasing the Benjamin to even share it. 

“And when we do have access to share that information, they don’t want to hear it,” she said.  “I mean who is getting the media’s attention? Why do we have so much reality shows all of a sudden? It’s not because it’s good for us, it’s because it’s making money because too many of us are feeding into it. So the more we feed into it the more they feed us that.”

For more information about the African World Festival, visit www.AWFDetroit.com

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