The African Studies Center celebrated its annual Africa Fest on October 8, 2023, at the vibrant Weaver Street Market. This event served as a grand platform for the community to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of African culture, expressed through music, dance, and poetry. This year’s festival was a resounding success, drawing a diverse crowd of over 300 attendees, ranging from the young to the old, students, and people from various demographic backgrounds.
Ada Umenwaliri, Associate Director of the African Studies Center, welcomed attendees with a brief background of the festival’s objective. The festival was opened with a brief remark from Carrboro’s Mayor, Damon Seils, who warmly welcomed everyone to Africa Fest. His opening remarks set the tone for an exploration of African culture and community bonding. The atmosphere was electric with joy, laughter, and peace, thanks to our DJ, Sphinx Entertainment, who kept the crowd energized with upbeat tunes and rhythms. Our charismatic MC, CDKonthemic, seamlessly guided the audience through the performances, activities, and giveaways.
The festival was a treasure trove of African culture. Attendees had the opportunity to purchase African clothing, accessories, games, and more. The festival-themed T-shirts and tote bags that were given away during the festival were in such high demand that they were all claimed within the first 30 minutes! There were also giveaways featuring stunning pieces of African fashion.
The first performance was by Zankiliwa, an African dance group from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They engaged the audience in an interactive session, teaching them an African Dance to the song ‘Rush’ by Ayra Starr. This was followed by a captivating performance by the Ethiopian and Eritrean Dance group, who showcased various ethnic dances from Ethiopia and Eritrea in their traditional attire.
Throughout the festival, attendees were treated to samples from Queen Jollof and King Peppers, as well as food options within Weaver Street Market. Children enjoyed playing with customized Africa Fest cornholes as well as our Arts and Crafts station while families and friends captured memories at our customized Africa Fest photobooth.
The festival continued with powerful poetry performances from CJ Suitt, Fred Joiner, and Cortland Gilliam, who reflected on Carrboro’s community and the history of its black and African community. Mickey Mills then took to the stage with a tropical Caribbean-style performance, also paying homage to Jamaican legend Bob Marley. His performance had everyone on their feet dancing to the rhythm of the music!
A Sierra Leonian Masquerade rounded off the dance performances with a ‘Tiwaniokay Hunting’ display and dance in traditional Sierra Leonean masquerade costumes. They captivated the audience with their vibrant and energetic performance. The grand finale of the musical performances was delivered by Kaira Ba, who masterfully transported everyone into the enchanting world of Mandé music. As they played, a serene and harmonious atmosphere enveloped the audience, further heightened when they extended an invitation to everyone to join in the singing.
Victoria Rovine, Director of the Africa’s Studies Center, concluded Africa Fest with her closing remarks. She reflected on how Africa Fest served as a platform for everyone to learn about, explore, and appreciate African Culture. We roughly anticipate over 400 attendees, and with such a successful event this year, we eagerly look forward to next year’s Africa Fest!
This article is written by Bohollomonde Yapo, a UNC-CH Information Science student and an ASC work-study student. The video summary can be found here and was created by Lee Jefferies, a UNC-CH Journalism student.