The second annual AfriCa Fest took over Centennial Square in downtown Victoria on May 24, aiming to educate the public about African and Caribbean culture.
“There’s a non-negligible amount of Afro-Caribbean people here in Victoria and in B.C., and it’s about time to promote, to say, ‘Hey Canada, we’re here,’” said Lova Bassong-Desrochers, a French master of arts student at the University of Victoria.
According to Bassong-Desrochers, who volunteered as a francophone MC, AfriCa Fest hopes to “break stereotypes by education,” which often relate to the breadth of African and Caribbean cultures.
Africa is a continent of “54 countries and more than 1500 ethnic groups. I am from Cameroon. We mostly speak French there—we also speak more than 280 different dialects,” said Pulchérie Mboussi, the organizer from the Victoria African and Caribbean Cultural Society (VACCS) who hosted the event.
The AfriCa Fest event guide and souvenir book states that the African continent accounts for 20.4 per cent of the world’s land mass and 15 per cent of the world’s population. The continent also has nine territories and two sovereign states, on top of the initial 54 sovereign nations. The book also states there are 28 Caribbean countries, or dependent states. Representing the geography, language, food, and dance of nearly 80 countries is an ambitious goal. Mboussi also said that food is the most challenging.
“The way we eat in each part of Africa is different.” She also said that in some cases, it would be necessary to have someone from a country like Ghana to complete a traditional recipe.
The two-day festival is a chance for attendees to meet new people, particularly those from their country of origin, said Boma Brown, the co-ordinator for UVic’s Student’s of Colour Collective (SOCC). For example, a Canadian-Zambian could potentially meet another from Zambia.
UVic’s Students of Colour Collective (SOCC) had a robust presence at AfriCa Fest, operat- ing a booth and distributing flyers, magazines, and buttons. SOCC also provided financial assistance for the festival, showed support, and started conversations about their awareness campaign, #notallwhit- eyyj, said Brown.
Education combined with fun, good food, and contagious music attracted many Victorians as they danced and learned how to drum. “We learn and then we have fun,” said Mboussi. Putting in nearly 24 hours to run the festival and attend evening parties. “I am so happy— but I am so tired,” she said with a smile.