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Edmonton's Africanival kicking off with West African poetry 'spectacle'

Thursday July 11, 2019

Africanival drew more than 10,000 people to celebrate African and Caribbean culture in Edmonton last year. (Frankline Agbor)

It's a chance to celebrate African and Caribbean culture in Edmonton.

Africanival is now in its third year. The festival kicks off with Orality, a spoken word poetry event on Friday night, at the Betty Andrews Recital Hall, MacEwan University.

"I think having an opportunity to bring poets to a mainstream stage like the Betty Andrews theatre gives them an opportunity to perform and present in front of audiences that they wouldn't normally be able to capture," said event coordinator Bert Richards, in an interview on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active on Tuesday.

Hosted by Edmonton's former poet laureate, Ahmed 'Knowmadic' Ali, Orality features two local nationally recognized poets, Titilope Sonuga and Ian Keteku.

West African culture

The theme for the event is West Word, said Richards, with a focus on elements of West African culture.

Adinkra will be on display, West African symbols that represent traditional wisdom, concepts and aspects of life.

Both poets are West African, as well as a dance troupe that will be drumming and dancing at the event, called Sangea Academy.

"It'll be quite the spectacle because we've decided to light the stage with black lights," said Richards. "The dancers actually called me today like, 'Can we do this thing with powder?'"

"So it's going to be quite theatrical to see them performing as well."

The setup of the stage will incorporate a West African "talking circle" and audience members will be given glow sticks.

"So when they come in, they'll be able to bring their light there as they sit," said Richards. "They'll be completing our talking circle and then the poets will share."

The two-day Africanival drew more than 10,000 people last year. The outdoor event takes place behind MacEwan University, on 107 Street at 105 Avenue, from July 13 to 14. A flag parade is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m.

"So if you're of African descent or if you just want to show pride in the country you come from, bring your flag," said Richards.

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New additions this year include a dance competition that is open to any communities who want to dance, said Africanival organizer Frankline Agbor.

Gospel performances

There will be more than 30 performances, exhibitions from different parts of the continent and the Caribbean and an hour each day dedicated to gospel performances.

"It'll be neat to see some of the cultural dances that are going to be presented as well as to hear some of the gospel singers," said Richards. "It'll be really beautiful."

Food vendors will serve up cultural dishes including unique traditional dishes like caterpillars from the Botswana kitchen, a delicacy in many parts of Africa.

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