Festival Celebrates Sights, Sounds, Tastes of Local African Communities in Waterloo, Canada


Bring on the Sunshine Mathew McCarthy,Record staff The University of Waterloo African Students Association dance during the Bring on the Sunshine African cultural event at Kitchener City Hall, Monday.

Bring on the Sunshine
Mathew McCarthy,Record staff
The University of Waterloo African Students Association dance during the Bring on the Sunshine African cultural event at Kitchener City Hall, Monday.

KITCHENER — Monday might have been the coldest day ever recorded, but bright tunes and spice-infused aromas at the fifth annual Bring on the Sunshine African Festival offered a warm reprieve from winter.

Organizer James Kandoja said the various food stands, vendors, live music, dancing and visual art on display gives the region’s African diaspora a celebration that is familiar, but also serves to educate the wider community about the customs, culture and cuisine of select African nations.

“We wanted to bring people from different nationalities to connect — not just between immigrants but to connect with Canadian society, so that we can know each other and stop generalizing.”

Behind a table covered by heated serving pots, Chisomo Mchaina and her mom, Grace serve beef and chicken stews, along with a steamed spinach dish containing ground nuts, tomato and spices.

The spinach recipe is a secret. Grace, originally from Zambia, says she hasn’t even told Chisomo or anyone else exactly how it is made.

“Nobody knows (the recipe) in my family, I’m the only one,” Grace joked.

Chisomo says non-African food enthusiasts often come to African cultural festivals, seeking the next great trend.

“There’s this real push in food to find the next great authentic, traditional food, so when they see African food they get excited because they usually don’t have much exposure to it.”

But patrons are sometimes stunned to find the produce or meat used in each dish can be found at a local grocery store.

“They ask us, ‘did the beef come from Zambia,'” Chisomo said. “And we’re like ‘no that would be really hard.'”

On stage, bands from across Ontario played music from various regions of the continent. Children darted about with their faces painted.

A screen drawn near the stage read “Africa is a big place,” a subtle reminder that the continent contains 54 independent states and more than 1,000 unique languages.

Nohsakhere Ibrahim sat behind a table covered in books spanning almost one millennia of African history on multiple continents, from Musa I of Mali to the African American emancipation leaders to the popular thinkers and leaders of the independence and civil rights movements of the 20th century.

“There’s a lot of emphasis getting books for (African) children, to educate them, to give them a good sense of self, establish an identity for them.”

He says that learning the history of the African continent is essential for young African migrants growing up in Canada, but also valuable for non-African Canadians whose only knowledge of African history might come from studying slavery in America.

“You’ll realize that slavery is but one second in somebody’s lifetime. It’s a blip.”
Source: Chris Herhalt (cherhalt@therecord.com , Twitter:@HerhaltRecord)|TheRecord.com

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