2016 marks Charleston’s 33rd annual MOJA Arts Festival: A Celebration of African-American and Caribbean Arts. Selected as one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events for many years, the MOJA Arts Festival promises an exciting line-up of events with a rich variety of traditional favorites. The upcoming festival is scheduled for Thursday, September 29 through Sunday, October 9, 2016. Nearly half of MOJA’s events are admission-free, and the remainder are offered at  modest ticket prices.

The MOJA Arts Festival is a multi-disciplinary festival produced and directed by the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the MOJA Planning Committee, a community arts and cultural group, and the MOJA Advisory Board, a group of civic leaders who assist with fundraising and advocacy.

Moja, a Swahili word meaning “One,” is the appropriate name for this festival celebration of harmony among all people in our community. The Festival highlights the many African-American and Caribbean contributions to western and world cultures. MOJA’s wide range of events include visual arts, classical music, dance, gospel, jazz, poetry, R&B music, storytelling, theatre, children’s activities, traditional crafts, ethnic food, and much, much more. In addition to its myriad arts presentations, MOJA also includes an active and busy educational outreach component of workshops in the public schools and senior outreach in senior citizen homes.

The official MOJA 2016 artwork is Vessel, 24” x 30”, Acrylic on Wood, Sweet Grass, and Palmetto Roses, 2016.

About the Artist:

Fletcher Williams III is known for his sculptural works, which incorporate various unassociated materials such as discarded lumber, automotive paint, natural plant fibers, synthetic fibers, and metal. For Williams, traditional and modern materials provide him with a language necessary for creating works that convey a need to reconcile constant transformations in social and cultural landscapes. Williams commonly utilizes Southern Hip-Hop motifs and traditional African American symbolism and artistic practices to create works reflective of human transformation, preservation, and deconstruction. Upon returning to Charleston, S.C. in 2013, he began using his practice to speak against social injustices inflicting the local African American community.

This is perhaps most evident in his latest solo exhibition, Beyond The Rainbow (Charleston S.C. 2016). Within a vacated church, in the heart of Charleston’s historic district, Williams installed a series of works addressing gun violence and housing inequality. Small replicas of boarded-up homes and drawings of local shootings surrounded a decadently painted pseudo playground draped in Spanish moss. Other works included paintings of moss comprised of black paint and roofing shingles, a sculpture resembling a cage that encloses dried palmetto leaves, and a life sized clothesline that holds four roof pitches dangling from rusted rebar. The vacant church became a sanctuary for nostalgia, trauma, and contemplation.

Fletcher Williams III was born in 1987 in North Charleston, S.C. He spent much of his primary education studying art. He went on to attend The Cooper Union: For the Advancement in Science in Art (NYC) where he received his BFA in 2010. Since then his work has been shown in solo exhibitions and notable institutions such as MoCada Museum (2016), McKissick Museum (2015), Mann-Simon Center (2016), San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art (2015), and San Diego African American Museum of Art (2015). In 2015, Williams was named an Art Matters Grantee and an Alternate Roots Visual Arts Scholar.

Williams is currently displaying work in OFFWHITE (MoCada Museum Brooklyn, NY Aug. 9 – Nov. 6) and With Liberty and [IN]Justice For All? (Gateway Project Gallery, Newark, NJ Sept. 7 – Oct. 7).