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Most exciting cultural festivals in Africa

19.01.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Africa is unique both in its historic background and its cultural diversity; 54 countries with over 2000 languages and 3000 tribes. The socio-cultural aspect of Africa is more and more becoming an area of touristic attraction; the art, food, music, dances, languages and traditional practices remain special and distinctive. Africans have had a history of valorizing their culture through traditional festivals which was highly respected.

Today, though several aspects are fast fading away due to globalization, some age old festivals are still being celebrated. Let’s explore some of the major cultural festivals from various countries across the continent which have stood the test of time.

  1. Festival of the Dhow Countries – July, Tanzania

Considered as East Africa’s largest cultural event and among the eight major festivals in sub-Saharan Africa, this festival gives room for the display of an array of cultural activities ranging from music, theatre and performing arts, to workshops, seminars and conferences. The event brings together arts and cultures from different East African countries together with those of India, Pakistan, the Gulf States, Iran and the Indian Ocean islands.

The annual festival held in Zanzibar, Tanzania was conceived to promote and develop film and other relevant cultural industries as tools for social and economic growth in the region. The festival is often organised within the first 2 weeks of July with a specific theme for each edition.

  1. The Festival of Masks, FESTIMA– Burkina Faso

Held in Dedougou, 250km west of Ouagadougou, the aim of the festival is to showcase the wide variety of traditional masks from 6 countries; Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali, Togo, Senegal, as well as 50 of Burkina Faso’s villages.

FESTIMA, is celebrated with mask dance performances throughout the day, storytelling, music, and overall celebration of other cultural aspects. And after the main dancers perform, the festival oozes into the streets where people join the celebrations in the form of a street party.

The masks won during the festival are believed to represent the spirits of the village that guide and guard the lives of the people.  According to traditional beliefs, during the ceremony, the frantic music and dance transform the mask wearer into a spirit which communicates with ancestors.

FESTIMA is a biennial event usually organized within the last week of February and the first week of March.

  1. The Gerewol Festival – Chad

Have you ever seen men in a beauty contest? If not then you may want to think of attending the Gerewol festival. It is being considered as the world’s most competitive male beauty pageant. Young Mbororo men decorate themselves with make-up and jewelry to impress a women. It is a weeklong festival characterized by feasting, singing, dancing, socializing and engaging in courtship as well as came racing.

Gerewol is a festival during which the nomadic Wodaabe tribes who are usually scattered over a large territory, come together. The Gerewol festival which is most often very colourful takes place at the end of the rainy season, around the last week of September where men make themselves up and dress beautifully and perform a series of dances to attract women.

  1. Lake Turkana Festival – Kenya

Lake Turkana Cultural Festival is one of the means through which the tribes affiliated to Loiyangalani, living around the Lake Turkana tighten their bond and promote harmony.

The traditional values and cultures of El Molo, Samburu, Gabbra, Rendile, Watta, Dasannach and the Turkana are highly displayed.

It is celebrated through singing, dancing, display of traditional costumes and show casing the culture and many other attributes of the 14 ethnic communities in Kenya. The 3 day annual carnival is a unique occasion used to acknowledge the richness and history of the people of Kenya.

Generally cultural displays and festivals have been one of the best means used in bonding and solidifying ties between tribes and even the people with the community. Such gatherings have been used to bring people together to commune with each other. It is most often distinguished by its colourful nature and the display of cultural attires, dances and men will mostly use to gathering to pick their bride.

Article from AFRIC Editorial.

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