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COLUMNISTS

The Hague African Festival, a glorious Phoenix!
By Ato Bob

Saturday, last 18th July, a colourful ‘The Hague African Festival’ took place the Roggeveld of The Hague’s green oases the Zuiderpark.

 

Formerly known as ‘Delft African Festival’, this well known summer event, which lost its attraction, rose as a phoenix from its ashes and was successfully re-launched at another city. It was however not just reborn the same, but had undergone a complete transformation, featuring varied multi-cultural music, activities, trade and of course food.

 

It all started in Delft back in 1983 by Oko Drammeh and the Delft African Festival Foundation and became a popular well attended spectacle. In 2000 the Arno Bos foundation took over the programming and the Afrika Netwerk Foundation with Cordaid supported it. Delft City Council, which had also been supporting it lost interest, resulting in a break in 2005 and 2006. In 2007 Sankofa with Oxfam Novib organised it for the last time in Delft. So now the change from Delft to The Hague!

 

George Duncan, the Chairperson of Sankofa reportedly said that The Hague was chosen as location for the festival, ‘because of its international image as a city of justice and peace as well as the commitment of the City Council. It is a challenge to develop a new event here.’

 

The Hague African Festival was, with the professional services of Clockround Events www.clockround.com, well advertised, promoted and organised, and has an attractive website - www.thehagueafricanfestival.nl. This made many mark it in their agenda.

 

Who would have expected that the Saturday morning of the occasion it rained cats and dogs with a cold wind to top it off? I called it Dunya weather, the Rotterdam annual world music happening, known for its bad luck with the weather, except this year when the bright sun attracted almost 250,000 visitors to Ortel Dunya at the Euromast Park.

 

It looked like the heroic attempt of Sankofa, supported by Oxfam Novib, The Hague City Council, Foundation 1818 and others to re-launch this truly African Festival was in serious trouble. Seasoned festival goers turned up, but others only came in small numbers later in the day when the weather improved. This resulted in the end that of the 5.000 visitors expected, 3.000 attended.

 

 

But who is Sankofa?  The meaning of Sankofa is: ‘to understand the present, you have to go back and understand the past’ hence the symbol of the African bird looking backwards, while moving forward. This African Migrant Foundation is an initiative of the Ghanaian community, originating in the working group Akwaaba in The Hague. The idea was to give more information about the Ghanaian culture and increase the support for poverty alleviation in Ghana. Sankofa has activities and projects in Ghana and the Netherlands. Its website (www.sankofa.nl) gives basic information about the history and current relationship between the two countries, the Ghanaian migration, culture and more.

 

Back to the festival where it was not just the bright sun in the early afternoon that warmed the participants of various backgrounds and various ages, it was the captivating music, the attractive festival tents, the inviting spacious setup, and last but not least the delicious African food and snacks.

 

As for the performers, Sankofa had been able to attract popular international stars, despite the fact that many wanted to be in New York to play at a benefit concert for Mandela’s birthday, which was alsogiven attention during the festival in The Hague.

 

The audience was thrilled with stars like Mori Kante from Guinee (remember Yeke Yeke), Chiwoniso from Zimbabwe and Tiken Jah Fakoly, our own Ziggi and others. Besides the main Oxfam Novib stage, there was the Culturalis stage, towering high over the sound control box. There ‘De Beat and Friends’ gave a surprisingly attractive and disciplined percussion performance with two processions of amateur drummers converging with the main drummers sitting on the high stage.

 

Culturalis also supported the event and is, by the way, is an organisation for artists in The Hague, providing information, networking and subsidies - www.culturalis.nl.

 

With other performances as from the ‘Pentecostal Revival Choir (Ghana/NL) Iizran and Manar form Morocco, Oke Sene from Senegal and Joseph Bangura from Sierra Leone, there was music and show for every taste. This was not all on offer, an interactive children’s’ program, an African market under the Fair Trade theme, the African Village welcoming VIP’s, a speakers corner and of course various stands with Africa food!

 

So if you missed this most entertaining and successful African fair, make sure to be there next year, because The Hague African Festival will be there to stay!

 

*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on atobobhensen@hotmail.com










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