The MOJA Arts Festival returns starting this weekend, celebrating African-American and Caribbean culture with music, arts, spoken word and other events across Charleston — including some “pop-up” events that might be happening in your neighborhood.
After taking a virtual year in 2020 due to the pandemic, MOJA is back in-person, but with smaller-scale events to allow for distancing and fewer big crowds. The whole thing kicks off Thursday and runs through Oct. 10.
First held in 1984, the MOJA Arts Festival was built out of previous Charleston Black Arts Festivals, and is named for the Swahili word for “one.” The annual fest incorporates family friendly events that highlight cultural touchstones woven into to Charleston’s identity by African-American and Caribbean artists and their descendants. The city’s office of Cultural Affairs heads up the festival each year.
This year’s poster art was created by Arianne King Comer, of North Charleston, who served as artist in residence at The Gibbes Museum of Art this spring. King Cromer’s selected work is a batik painting depicting the 2019 reinterment of the remains of enslaved Africans on Anson Street, found during excavation for the city’s Gaillard Center. The work is in honor of Ade Ofunniyin, a beloved activist and teacher who founded the Gullah Society, led the Anson Street project and died in October 2020.
Here’s what’s on tap for the weekend, with details of some neighborhood events TBA to ensure smaller crowds. (Check MOJA event listings on Facebook to confirm TBA details.)
MOJA juried Art Exhibit on view at City Gallery (34 Prioleau St.) 12-5 p.m. daily – A variety of work on display through Oct. 10, selected by watercolor painter Andrea Hazel.
Jonathan Green illustration exhibition at James Island Arts and Culture Center (1248 Camp Road) 10 a.m. – Select illustrations by artist Jonathan Green for the book, The Freedom Ship of Robert Smalls, by Louise Meriwether.
Mayor’s opening remarks at 4:30 p.m. – Mayor Tecklenburg to deliver welcome remarks via livestream
The Kickback III open mic in Dock Street Theatre Courtyard (135 Church St.) 6 p.m. – Presented in partnership with Free Verse Poetry Festival.
Gullah MOJA Art Experience at Cannon Street Arts Center (134 Cannon St.) 5 p.m. – Art exhibition paying homage to Gullah/Geechee culture.
Gullah MOJA Art Experience with Queen Quet at CofC (202 Calhoun St) 12 p.m. – Arts and spoken word exhibition, featuring Queen Quet, chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee nation.
Neighborhood pop-up with Steam Roller – Details TBA
Artist Abba Nizar exhibition at DeReef Park Praise House (78 Morris St.) 12-5 p.m.
Neighborhood pop-up at White Point Gardens (time TBA) – Carl Bright and the Bright Family Singers, Ann Caldwell and the Magnolia Singers to perform.
Neighborhood pop-up at Dereef Park (time TBA) – Deninufay African Drumming and Dance to perform
“Whip Appeal,” Charles A. Miller Jr.’s tribute to Babyface at Dock Street Theatre (135 Church St.) – Live taping event
Celebrating unity through music and dance at Enston Homes (900 King St.) 4 p.m. – Mystic Vibrations to perform
Joey Morant tribute at Festival Hall (56 Beaufain St.) – Time and details TBA
Cha-Cha-Chalreston Afro-Cuban celebration at Festival Hall (56 Beaufain St.) Time TBA – Gino Castillo to perform