Black Arts and Film Festival explores West African Culture

Joyce Guy, director and producer of “Dancing Like Home” traveled from LosAngeles to premiere her film at the opening reception for the 2nd Annual Black Arts and Film Festival.


BY TAMIRACLE WILLIAMS, Neighborhood News Bureau

ST. PETERSBURG – St. Petersburg has become a thriving place for the arts. Art lovers travel to downtown for events surrounding art, film, music and fashion. However, many of them never take the opportunity to explore the cultural sights and sounds found south of Central Avenue.

“St. Petersburg has a distinguished art culture, but only in a few areas located in downtown. None that are readily found on the south side,” said Carla Bristol, gallerist and founder of the Black Arts and Film Festival.

Following the showing of “Dancing Like Home,” Carla Bristol (right) and Joyce Guy (left) sat down for audience questions.

Following the showing of “Dancing Like Home,” Carla Bristol (right) and Joyce Guy (left) sat down for audience questions.

The idea of art not being readily available in Midtown inspired Bristol to create the Black Arts and Film Festival.

“This festival is about bringing artist together with the main focus being art,” Bristol said. “A lot [of] times places will host art festivals, but people will bypass the actual artist and run to the stage to see the headlining (musical) artist.”

Founded last year, the Black Arts and Film Festival occurs the last weekend of February. The festival showcases a wide-range of artists with specialties that include jewelry, mix-media and painting.

This year’s festivities expanded from a one-day event into a weekend. It kicked off Friday evening at Studio@620, where the film “Dancing Like Home” was shown.

This 30-minute short follows director and producer Joyce Guy on her voyage to West Africa to better understand the significance of dance in the African culture. It shows that even though they are disconnected by language barriers, they are connected by movements found in dance.

The idea for the film came about from Guy’s West African dance classes, which made her want to learn more about the culture and the significance of dance. Her first trip to West Africa was in 1996 with a few classmates.

During that trip, she got the opportunity to dance with women from a tribe located in Senegal and decided she’d tell the story of dance at its origin. Guy took about 10 years to produce “Dancing Like Home” and it ultimately premiered in 2014. Since the debut, it has been shown at 12 film festivals.

“The film’s purpose is to debunk the myths that Africans are always dancing,” said Guy. “Their dancing is a sacred ceremony and ritual done to honor a certain aspect of life like fertility and harvesting.”

Following the film, both Guy and Bristol sat down for an intimate conversation with the audience. They answered questions about the film and provided more insight on local places in St. Pete that teach West African dance and culture.

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