A nine-day explosion of culture is coming out of Eatonville and Central Florida at the end of January. The Zora Neale Hurston Festival of Arts and Humanities celebrates its Silver Anniversary this year with a lineup of music, literature, theater, fashion, visual arts and all things ZORA!
From Jan. 25 to Feb. 2, the 25th anniversary of the festival will pay tribute to the Harlem Renaissance author, best known for her 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Since writer Alice Walker first published the article, "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston," in a 1975 issue of Ms. magazine, generations of Zora adorers have been multiplying. Among her fans: author Toni Morrison and poet Maya Angelou, who have appeared at the festival in the past.
In addition to honoring Zora’s life and work, the festival embraces the cultural contributions made by people of African descent to America and the world. Voted “One of the 25 Cultural Tourism Success Stories in the United States” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Zora! Festival attracts thousands to Eatonville, the nation’s oldest incorporated African American municipality.
From academic lectures and creative writing workshops to a comedy show and book fair, there is plenty to do during the festival. Here are our top five experiences for Zoraphiles:
- “An Evening with Zora,” 8 p.m., Jan. 31. Actress Lynn Whitfield (“Hill Street Blues,” “PBS’ American Playhouse Anthology Series,” “Cagney and Lacey,” “The Cheetah Girls,” “Josephine Baker”) and Avery Brooks (“Star Trek Deep Space Nine,” “Half Slave, Half Free: Solomon Northup’s Odyssey”) star in dramatic readings directed by Elizabeth Van Dyke, who received an AUDELCO award for her portrayal of Zora Neale Hurston. At the Auditorium at the University of Central Florida Rosen Center of Hospitality Management, 9907 University Blvd., Orlando. Admission is $15.
- HATitude Brunch & Party, 10 a.m., Feb. 1. Fine food, fellowship and fabulous hats at a festive celebration of Zora’s style and sassiness. At 600 N. Lake Destiny Road, Maitland. Tickets are $25-$55.
- Zora Neale Hurston Arts and Humanities Lecture, 10 a.m., Jan. 31. Eleanor Traylor, a graduate professor of English at Howard University and an acclaimed scholar and critic in African-American literature and criticism, discusses the dynamic and controversial life and work of the novelist and folklorist. At St. Lawrence A.M.E. Church, 549 E. Kennedy Blvd., Eatonville. Free and open to the public.
- Robert Pruitt Exhibition, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Jan. 30. The Houston-based artist attends a reception and gallery talk about his body of work on exhibit. His drawings, videos and installations address the complexity of black identity by combining contrasting signs and imagery of disparate black influences and aesthetics. He layers science fiction, hip hop, comic books, and black political and social struggles into layered portraits of his friends and community. His playful solo show, “Robert Pruitt: Women,” ran last year at the Studio Museum in Harlem. He also has exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the 2006 Whitney Biennial. At Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, 227 E. Kennedy Blvd., Eatonville. Free and open to the public.
- Street Festival of the Arts, Jan. 31-Feb. 2. The outdoor festival runs all day for three days, with hands-on children’s programs, author readings, art exhibits and live music. Award-winning Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat is scheduled to appear. In downtown Eatonville. Daily admission is $10 for adults; children 17 and under are free.
For a complete schedule and ticketing info: http://zorafestival.org