Africa Day 2017 | community & cultural preservation

I’ve had numerous conversations and debates with people about how various ethnic communities celebrate their heritage and mark special dates in Auckland. These conversations almost always include feelings of disappointment and frustration, most times on my part. Being situated in what feels much of the time a world away, New Zealand is at most times a land where various ethnic communities can replant their roots and continue to flourish in their own safe spaces. But this can only happen and continue to happen if these communities actively choose to do so.

When you’re so far from home how does a community not have their roots die off as they are forced to be rooted on unfamiliar land? How can one nourish and sustain these roots so that the flowers and fruit continue to flourish?

To me, an important part of all of this is sharing. Considering the political and social climate of the world, sharing is an increasingly significant concept. The preserving of culture and languages as resistance to assimilation is a necessary practice among ethnic groups that not only brings diversity and multiculturalism to usually white dominated spaces, but also the concept and thought changing process of open mindedness. This then aids in the process of dismantling prejudices, stereotypes and invites conversation to take place. Or at least that’s how it works in my head.

In previous years, celebrations like Africa Day  have been held behind closed doors, with invitations selectively extended to local politicians to talk at incessant lengths about ~multicultural~ New Zealand. Although the food is always bomb af, the cramped and awkward seating and floor arrangements don’t always allow for an inviting space for conversation, let alone comfort. Attendees are designated spectators of their own friends and families, not always fully rehearsed, but nonetheless passionate performances.

 

*Click images to enlarge*

I can’t say that all of these things were eliminated at Africa Day this year, but the community did noticeably step up to celebrate. Firstly, the location was central and accessible, while the space itself was quite open and inviting with an interesting yet kind of awkward indoor/outdoor flow. It was also nice to see various organisations set up to talk about their work and services, as well as some African beauty store ladies selling their products. Had I known, I would have come prepared to stock up on African black soap *crying face emoji*. Though like any sensible business person, Blessing had her details ready to hand out to those equally unprepared.

The performances , though running late, were pretty great. I was really happy I didn’t get to miss the Burundian drums which of course is and should be one of my favourite performances. The one downside of yesterday’s event was the lack of food stalls. I was very satisfied with my Ethiopian injera/lentils/veges, but it was a shame that there weren’t more African nations weren’t represented in the cuisine department.

Overall, yesterday’s Africa Day was an afternoon well spent that I am looking forward to attending next year. I honestly hope that more communities take take heed to actively choose to preserve, flourish and share the origins of their roots.

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