MOJA lineup overflows with music, arts, parties and more

By Olivia Pool  Special to The Post and Courier   – Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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The Oct. 4 Dayton Contemporary Dance Company performance at the Charleston County School of the Arts is one of the highlights of this year’s MOJA Arts Festival.
  • The 2013 MOJA Arts Festival poster featuring “Harvesting Sweetgrass” by Charles DeSaussure.
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    The 2013 MOJA Arts Festival poster featuring “Harvesting Sweetgrass” by Charles DeSaussure.

Always a fun time full of interesting activities and lots of diversity, the MOJA Arts Festival is definitely an event you want to strive to attend. And since it will be taking place all over the city with many of the events free and open to the public, it should be easy.

MOJA is a Swahili word meaning “one,” and this festival is all about bringing people together.

The festival is all about celebrating the African-American and the Caribbean arts and, of course, Charleston. Expect to experience a variety of different programs, including theatre, dance, visual and literary arts, lots of music ranging from jazz and gospel to reggae and chamber, and much more.

The 30th annual MOJA festival begins Thursday and runs through Oct. 6.

Some of the highlights of this year’s festival include:

Soprano saxophonist Marion Meadows, accompanied by The First Class Band, at the Family Circle Magazine Stadium on Saturday evening.

The “Gospel Divas” at Trinity United Methodist Church on Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday night’s Classical Encounter featuring Tiffany Rice, Seth Gilliard and Friends at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park.

The “Emerging to Masters” performance by the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company at the Charleston County School of the Arts on Oct. 4.

The annual MOJA R&B Concert featuring Anthony Hamilton at Joe Riley Stadium on Oct. 5.

Of course, there are several large events that are super fun and completely free.

The festival always opens with their Caribbean Street Parade, which will take place Thursday. The parade will start at 5:30 p.m. at Marion Square and conclude at the Custom House. The opening night ceremony will continue with a reception at the Dock Street Theatre.

At 6:30 p.m. Friday, the famous Reggae Block Dance featuring New York-based New Kingston will take place at Brittlebank Park.

Saturday marks Heritage Day at the Charleston Farmers Market. Beginning at 10 a.m., local and regional talents will be showcased, and onsite screenings will take place at a major health and wellness fair. The Farmers Market is in Marion Square.

The much-anticipated finale takes place at Hampton Park on Oct. 6 and will consist of the Charleston Latin Jazz Collective featuring Charlton Singleton. There will be lots of African-American and Caribbean craft vendors, food and games, all beginning at 4 p.m.

In the visual arts department, there will be a memorial exhibition of works by the MOJA Arts Festival’s featured poster artist, Charles DeSaussure. The exhibition is titled “Through My Eyes,” and the image “Harvesting Sweetgrass” is this year’s main image. The exhibition, among others, will be on display at the Art Institute of Charleston.

In addition, there also will be a show of juried works at the Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture.

Yet another exhibit will be at The City Gallery at Waterfront Park. “The Spirit of Place: Traditions of the Agrarian Home in Barbados and the Lowcountry” explores new building traditions and typographies common to the Caribbean and the Southeastern United States and brings together artists’ perspectives on the architecture of Barbados and the sea islands of the Carolinas.

Of course, what’s listed above are just a few highlights of the MOJA Arts Festival; this is a massive event and there are many things going on every day at various venues all over the city. For the entire schedule of events, go to www.MOJAFestival.com or pick up a printed program guide at the Charleston County Public Library at 68 Calhoun St., Charleston Visitors Center at 375 Meeting St. or at the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs at 180 Meeting St., Suite 200.

At the Gibbes

On Wednesday, the Gibbes Museum of Art will host an artist conversation and book signing with Mary Whyte and Martha Severens.

Severens, the former curator of the Greenville County Museum of Art, wrote Whyte’s biography, titled “More Than a Likeness: The Enduring Art of Mary Whyte,” which spans 50 years, from Whyte’s childhood until now.

In addition to a lively conversation with Whyte and Severens, two of Whyte’s models will be participating in the presentation.

“Tesha Marsland of Johns Island has been painted by Mary for over 20 years and is featured on the cover of Mary’s book, “Down Bohicket Road.” Jane Hogg is on the cover of the biography, “More Than a Likeness,” and is a beekeeper in Simpsonville. Her portrait was included in the recent exhibition “Working South,” which was on view at the Gibbes Museum from May to September 2012,” explains Amy Mercer, marketing and communications manager at the Gibbes.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 for members, $30 for nonmembers, and can be purchased by calling 722-2706, ext. 21, or by going to www.gibbesmuseum.org.

Also this week at the Gibbes, the new exhibit “Photography and the American Civil War” will be opening.

“Organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this landmark exhibition brings together more than 200 of the finest and most poignant photographs of the American Civil War,” says Amy Mercer of the Gibbes. “Through examples drawn from The Metropolitan’s celebrated holdings, complemented by important loans from public and private collections, the exhibition will examine the evolving role of the camera during the nation’s bloodiest war.

“The ‘War Between the States’ was the great test of the young Republic’s commitment to its founding precepts; it was also a watershed in photographic history. The camera recorded from beginning to end the heartbreaking narrative of the epic four-year war (1861–1865) in which 750,000 lives were lost,” Mercer goes on to say.

At noon Friday, there will be a special lunchtime lecture with Jeff Rosenheim, curator in charge of the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Tickets are $20 for members and $30 for nonmembers.

Yet another happening at the Gibbes is free entry on Saturday because of the Smithsonian’s Museum Day Live!

The Gibbes, Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Drayton Hall, Powder Magazine and the South Carolina Historical Society will all allow access to their exhibits free of charge as part of this nationwide event.

“Inclusive by design, the event represents Smithsonian’s commitment to make learning and the spread of knowledge accessible to everyone, giving museums across all 50 states the opportunity to emulate the admission policy of the Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C.,” says Mercer. “Last year’s event drew over 400,000 participants, and this year’s event expects record-high participation.”

‘Sylvia’

The play “ ‘Sylvia’ will delight anyone who’s owned a dog, loved a dog or is exasperated by their dog,” says director Joseph Baldino. “This charming play will make you run home, hug your dog and everyone else you hold dear.”

A romantic comedy about a marriage that has reached a turning point, things change when “an irrepressible, affectionate and undeniably adorable dog” bounds into the picture. Dog Sylvia then creates all kinds of crazy situations, affecting the married couple in a variety of humorous ways.

Sylvia will be played by Samantha Andrews. The “dog-struck” Greg will be performed by Daniel Kuhn, and Nicole Antonacci will play the part of Greg’s estranged wife, Kate. Kenneth C. Graham will play three different roles throughout the night: Tom, Phyllis and Leslie.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday at South of Broadway Theatre, 1080 E. Montague Ave., in North Charleston. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased by calling 745-0317 or by going to www.southofbroadway.com.