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Edmonton displays African culture at premier AfroFest 2017

By  | 6 June 2017 at 13:18 | 2891 views

Several Sierra Leoneans featured prominently in the first ever festival of African culture in Edmonton on June 3 and 4, 2017. The event took place at Winston Churchill Square, across from Edmonton City Hall.

Afrofest 2017 was anchored by Augustine Marah as master of ceremony - thanks to his fluency in both English and French.

Raymond Taylor played a vital role in the area of security. Kemoh Mansaray, Sierra Leonean community president, was actively involved in the planning of the whole fiesta.

One Sierra Leonean business enterprise stood out among the various vendors that took part. It was the promising partnership of two young Sierra Leoneans, Lamin Turay and Lucetta Marah.

Their food stand ‘Taste of the West’ drew many festival-goers looking for African food. There seemed to be no end to the queues in front of ‘Jazzy and Lu’s (their business moniker). They served various Sierra Leonean dishes. “I love the atchekeh” one diner confided in The Patriotic Vanguard, “it’s so delicious.”

The festival started early on Saturday afternoon; with a parade of the various African communities along the streets of Edmonton.

Among those who spoke during the formalities that followed the march was David Shepherd, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Alberta.

Speaking to The Patriotic Vanguard afterwards, Shepherd described AfroFest as a fantastic event that is really symbolic. Shepherd represents the Edmonton Centre constituency where the festival took place. He mused, “Africans showing so much love for their culture and sharing it is just amazing.”

“What I’m seeing now are new leaders, a younger generation of Edmontonians getting more and more involved,” he observed. He said there is a higher level of engagement, as he acknowledged the incredible diversity and enormous opportunities in Edmonton and elsewhere in Alberta.

Kemoh Mansaray, president of the Sierra Leone Alberta Association of Canada, beamed with pride as he too spoke to The Patriotic Vanguard on Sunday. “We want to get people to understand that Africa is not a country, but a continent.” Mansaray recalled that security was a big concern as they planned the open-air event. “This is where my fellow Sierra Leonean has done us proud,” Mansaray said as he beckoned to Taylor.

Taylor was security coordinator for the show. “My background is in security and investigations,” Taylor told The Patriotic Vanguard, “and I feel fortunate and privileged to have served in this role.” He added that his team faced two big challenges as they prepared. “One was getting enough volunteers, and the other was tackling the task of maintaining security.” He said there were not enough volunteers, but he felt they got the job done. “Seeing things go on smoothly and people moving around with confidence, was motivation enough,” Taylor chuckled.

One group, Wajjo Drummers, simply stole the show. Wajjo Drummers is a group of Africans from different parts of the continent and together they perform admirably. During one of their performances Wajjo Drummers added a European flavor to their rhythmic drumming. It was Scottish music played with bagpipes. Deceased Sierra Leonean academic and long-time Alberta resident Arthur Bollo-Kamara was one of the founders of Wajjo Drummers. He passed away in Edmonton about 12 years ago.

There were guest performances by a Chinese cultural ensemble and an indigenous Aboriginal group that thrilled the crowd with their traditional drumming.

In a phone chat with The Patriotic Vanguard after the event, MC Augustine Marah described it all as a “cultural mosaic.”