South Africa rolled out some of its finest musicians as a short but sweet colourful opening ceremony of the Africa Cup of Nations kicked off the tournament at Johannesburg's National Stadium.
Based on the theme, "the beat at Africa's feet" it was a spectacle of music and dance featuring artists like Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse, Ringo Madlingozi, Sibongile Khumalo, Judith Sephuma, and Kira as well as other musicians .The line-up of performers included Grammy award winner Oumou Sangare from Mali and Eric Wainana from Kenya. Interwoven in the theme were depictions of barriers on the continent like, poverty, disease and illiteracy that Africa is working hard to eradicate.
The stadium resonated to upbeat rhythms that had four groups dance in the middle of the pitch meeting and embracing around giant puppets. They then knocked down large walls inscribed with the stereotypes that often drag Africa down. The message was clear: AIDS, poverty and illiteracy cannot withstand solidarity.
Hundreds of dancers gyrated in the rain, dressed in colours from around the continent.
They bounced around on coloured gym balls, then lifted them to form a technicolour pixelated carpet of green, red, blue, black, yellow and white he colours of the South African flag. Then, more cheers and honks from vuvuzelas (plastic horns) when the gym balls changed colour and morphed into one heart beating to the music. Handlers rolled on giant drums with drum-beaters on stilts in tune. Once tilted, the drums became trampolines and acrobats did somersaults in unison.
Former president and global peace icon Nelson Mandela featured in homage on the big screen. South Africa's Paralympics champion Oscar Pistorius was another to appear. "Honoured to be carrying the SA flag on to the field," he posted earlier on micro-blogging site Twitter.
The ceremony got underway just after 4pm at a wet National Stadium but the raining could not dampen the energy of the performers nor the fans that trooped in to witness the start of the 29th edition of Africa Cup of Nations.
The President of the Republic of South Africa, Jacob Zuma then officially opened the tournament telling the crowd that South Africa will not fail the continent before South Africa played Cape Verde in the first match to be followed by Angola against Morocco.