West African Cultural Festival

by David Henry
Publish date
26 March 2011
Comments (3)

On Sunday 6 March under clear blue skies, Immigration Museum hosted its first West African Cultural Festival. The Honourable Nicholas Kotsiras, Minister for Multicultural Affairs & Citizenship, opened the event before a spectacular parade in which traditionally clad representatives from 16 West African countries welcomed visitors in the museum’s festival courtyard.

Assembled guests at the West African Cultural Festival. Assembled guests and community representatives at the West African Cultural Festival. Includes Nicholas Kotsiras, Minister for Multicultural Affairs & Citizenship, and J. Patrick Greene, CEO Museum Victoria.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

West Africa as a region includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and Western Sahara.

As the region boasts such an incredible range of cultural, political and historical origins, an organising committee of community representatives worked hard to program performances, displays, films and talks to represent the diversity of West African communities in Victoria.

The main stage played host to incredible performances all day including drumming and dance, traditional kora strummed solo, and funky Afrobeat inspired by Nigerian pop-legend Fela Kuti. More than 800 visitors over the day sat in the shade in the courtyard perhaps enjoying Ekwusi soup with steamed semolina fufu, or Chicken Yassa washed down with a cool glass of hibiscus tea.

  Soccer demonstration, West African Cultural Festival Soccer demonstration, West African Cultural Festival.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

In the theatrette, audiences learnt to make their own fufu as well as a djembe drum (starting from scratch with the full hide of a goat!) They were also treated to films and talks including accounts of Malian history and the traditional cultural practices of Benin. Across the Museum, West African community groups ran information stalls affording visitors a window into contemporary West African culture in Victoria.

giant chicken coffin Attendees standing behind giant chicken coffin from Ghana at the West African Cultural Festival.
Image: Jon Augier
Source: Museum Victoria

The festival is part of a suite of programs running alongside the West Africa: Rhythm and Spirit exhibition (running till 29 May 2011), which features objects collected from West African countries by Joel A. and Patricia H. Vanderburg from Otago, New Zealand.

As with each of Immigration Museum’s cultural festivals, the West African festival provided an opportunity for audiences to engage across cultures and for communities to take a leading role in presenting their culture and activating Museum spaces.

Doris Imalenowa Mimmie Ngum Chi in traditional Cameroonian dress.
Image:  Benjamin Healley
Source: Museum Victoria

This year, the Museum will expand on the success of this festival, and continue to run a series of cultural events that bring people from diverse cultural backgrounds together in celebration. Stay tuned for more details.

Were you at the West African festival on the day? What did you think?

Comments (3)

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Leonie 29 March, 2011 09:45
Lovely photo of Mimmie Ngum Chi!
Lorraine 31 March, 2011 16:40
I agree with Leonie, it's a beatiful photo of Mimmie Ngum Chi. Great work Ben.
Mirah 4 April, 2011 09:14
Looks like another wonderfully colourful festival with plenty of the West African community in attendance. Well done all at the IM team, especially PP!
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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.