President and CEO
Elie Kihonia is the founder of Afrika Yetu and UMOJA African Arts Company. He was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and exposed to both traditional and neo-traditional African music and dance at an early age. He began performing at age nine with various youth choirs and in 1980 joined the international GEVAKIN Choir/The Musical Bridge. As a multi-instrumentalist who plays both African percussion and contemporary instruments, his expertise includes the xylophone, mbira, hand and set drums, keyboard, accordion and guitars. Mr. Kihonia is choreographer and expert in African dances.
While in Zaire, Mr. Kihonia developed his passion for keeping the roots of African arts alive, and he became a pioneer in intermixing traditional and neo-traditional music. In 1989, under his direction, GEVAKIN toured Africa, Europe and the United States. Seeing the need to introduce and promote Africa’s rich and diverse history, culture, and traditions through song and dance, Mr. Kihonia became a co-founder of UMOJA African Arts Company, in order to create an organization in the U.S. to unify and promote the arts of diverse African cultures. He performs, teaches, choreographs, writes, and produces multi-cultural productions internationally.
Mr. Kihonia has been associated with the Ministry of Culture and Arts in his native Democratic Republic of Congo, as the international Director of Production. He served as an artist consultant for the Museum of African Art in New York, The Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh, PA, The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and various Universities such as Duquesne University, Carnegie Mellon University, The University of Pittsburgh, La Roche College and Natal University of Durban in South Africa. Elie Kihonia was the driving force behind UMOJA African Arts Company to becoming an internationally known African dance company. Elie has collaborated with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Dance Council, the Three Rivers Arts Festival as a production consultant, and with individual artists and groups such as Miriam Makeba, Sharon Katz and the Peace Train, Yondo Sister, Soukous Stars, Pepe Felly Manuaku, Liz Lerman, David Fanshawe, Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher of African Ceremonies and Pittsburgh’s River City Brass Band, The Bach Choir and Dance Alloy. He also wrote music for the Pittsburgh Symphony and various performing arts organizations throughout the United States.
In 2000, Mr. Kihonia has developed as part of the new millennium, Safari a touring trip to visit the Continent of Africa, Afrika Yetu’s educational residency program and tours with the WACONGO Dance Company. Elie is currently conducting healing drum workshops with various health and Aids-related organizations such as the Mercy Behavior Health Center, Persad, Pittsburgh AIDS Task force and Citipark/Senior Citizens, the Marimba House in South Africa. In 2002, Mr. Kihonia made history in Salvador/Bahia, Brazil leading and participating with his group of 10 percussionists from various African countries, who led a parade of 600 percussionists from Brazil in the first African Carnival ever done in Brazil. In 2003, Mr. Kihonia was the Music Producer for the 2003 National Urban League Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He serves on various committee and board of national and international organizations, such as August Wilson Center, The African Roundtable, The African Union of Pittsburgh, African United Fellowship, Rhapsody Revue (Atlanta, GA), Foundation Femme plus (Democratic Republic of Congo), The House of Transformation Global Ministries, Graceland Missionary Church, The African Music project in Durban South Africa.
Today Mr. Kihonia is the President and CEO of Afrika Yetu, Inc, owner of Serene live Café and King and Queen African Fashion and Accessories.
With a diverse staff and the help of faithful volunteers and interns, Afrika Yetu conducts educational and human service programs that help newcomers rebuild their lives in their new community, navigate U.S. systems and cultures, gain confidence and economic self-sufficiency, and become productive, contributing, thriving members of society.
West End Multicultural Center
Pepe Felly Manuaku