Durham County

48th annual Bimbé Festival pays tribute to the late Chuck Davis

LeBrandy Johnson of the African American Dance Ensemble performs during the 48th annual Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival at Rock Quarry Park Saturday.
LeBrandy Johnson of the African American Dance Ensemble performs during the 48th annual Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival at Rock Quarry Park Saturday. The Herald-Sun

Speakers and performers paid tribute to the late Chuck Davis, founder of the African American Dance Ensemble, during the opening of the 48th Bimbé Cultural Arts Festival in Rock Quarry Park Saturday.

McDaniel Roberts, the griot, or storyteller, for the ensemble, led a moment of silence for Davis, after which the group performed “Tribute,” a piece that Davis had choreographed.

Roberts also opened the event with the words Davis often used at public events, “peace, love, respect,” and presided over the invitation from the elders and the parade of the elders. Davis also led those rituals at Kwanzaa and other events. Davis, who died Sunday, May 14, not only was respected as a dancer, but also much beloved for his hugs and welcoming personality.

Mayor Bill Bell led a moment of silence for Davis, and praised his legacy of bringing African dance traditions to more people worldwide. Bell said he has been to most of the Bimbé celebrations since the first one. “Today, we want to celebrate it in honor of Chuck Davis,” Bell said. Bell announced that he will give a proclamation honoring Davis at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 3, at Union Baptist Church, 904 N. Roxboro St.

Bimbé was first held in 1969 at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University. Since then, it has moved to different locations. It honors the West African traditions of gathering to give praise and thanks after the harvest. Bimbé 2017 featured live music and dance, food trucks, and vendors selling visual art, photography, bright clothing and other items reflective of the festival’s traditions.

April McDonald makes hand-made dolls and crocheted items through her company Amber Spider. Saturday was the first time she was at Bimbé as a vendor. “I’m looking forward to being a vendor here,” McDonald said. “I’ve been on the other side coming to see the performances” for many years, she said.

Nikki Thompson, who runs Nikki Fatu Arts, was selling her acrylic paintings, pencil drawings, and coasters with artwork. Thompson said she began painting and drawing in 2004, when she had a severe heart attack. When she was recuperating, a process that took a long time, she began drawing and painting, and her art helped her recover, she said.

Many people will tell her that her paintings of faces remind them of a friend or relative, even though Thompson may not know them, she said. “As I’m painting, when I start, I don’t know who they’re going to look like, or what they’re going to look like,” but the process takes over, she said.

Anthony Brunson, who makes money as a small engine mechanic, had his colorful portraits and abstract paintings on display. He uses mostly acrylic paint and some mixed media in his work, he said. He began working on engines for income, “but I’ve been painting since I remember,” Brunson said.

Other performers during the afternoon were Carlitta Durand, Shenette Swann, Eric Martin, Shursoundz featuring Tish Songbird, No Limitz Dance Company and Project 919 Band. Headliners Carl Thomas, a Grammy-nominated R&B singer, and hip-hop artist Chubb Rock were scheduled to perform Saturday evening.

Cliff Bellamy: 919-419-6744, @CliffBellamy1