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African Spectacle Showcases Continent's Other Side

When people are asked to picture Africa, they often speak of famine, war, deserts and jungles. Now a touring stage show in Britain is trying to shake up those ideas and reveal an entirely different side of the vast continent. Suzanne Chislett reports from London.

One hundred twenty artists from 17 African nations make up the performing cast of "Afrika! Afrika!"

The idea of this amazing spectacle is to showcase a side of Africa the rest of the world does not often see.

Huit Huit was born Makaya Dimbelolo in Angola. He was inspired to test his own flexibility after seeing Chinese contortionists on television. Now he is one of the stars of the show and loves performing to the crowds every day.

He says, "I give them my energy. I get back the energy from people because this is very important for me. Then, from that, people can go out with that in their minds. 'Ah, I want to see Afrika! Afrika! show. Wow, that guy was very amazing. That guy was talking about something! The job! Maybe those people exist in Africa. Ah! In Africa also these people have a talent.' "

While the performers showcase an impressive range of talents, the show also helps artists back in Africa.

One euro from every ticket sold is donated to a special charity called Art in Africa. The show's makers established the charity to encourage talents similar to those wowing London audiences.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism, Doudou Diene, has praised the charity. He says that encouraging the talents of African performers is a major step to widening non-Africans' views of the continent. "It is the field of culture that is the foundation for discrimination and prejudices and certainly one of the biggest issues is how to get Europeans to have another picture of Africa beyond the picture of tribal war or AIDS or violence. There is another Africa."

"Afrika! Afrika!" has proven such a big hit in Europe that there are now two touring companies.

Some two million people have already seen the show, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for its African art charity, and also raising awareness of the diversity of life on the continent.