KuumbaFest brings community back to its roots

By: Mike McCarthy Email
By: Mike McCarthy Email

KNOXVILLE (WVLT) -- A celebration of African culture took place over the weekend in East Knoxville. KuumbaFest 2008 featured everything from traditional clothing to dancing, all organized by the local art community.

For many who attended, its “all-things African,” theme was very comforting.

“You see all these African Americans wearing African clothes and enjoying themselves,” said Mamadou Ousmane, a vendor. “You feel right back at home."

Ousmane’s original home is in West Africa, though he now lives in Atlanta. On Saturday, he was also one of more than 70 vendors displaying at the festival.

"The whole festival is to promote cultural awareness in the African American Community, and the Knoxville Community as a whole,” said Tor Ajanaku, one of its coordinators.

Kuumba is a Swahili word meaning creativity, but the event was about more than traditional African art. Behind every piece there was a cultural lesson.

“This bracelet is from an African tribe,” Ousmane explained, “and when you tell them about it, they will go home and know more about that tribe."

This year marks the events 19th annual celebration of diversity, and was expected to bring between 10,000 and 15,000 together to Chilhowee Park.

"I think that's what we're all about in Knoxville,” said Mary Lucal, who attended the event for the first time. “We've got a lot of different communities and it's great to have an opportunity like this, to bring everyone together and be part of it."

"This is a comfortable environment because these folks are teaching me a few things,” said Ricky Sykes, who also attended the event for the first time. “I feel like I'm getting back to my roots."

KuumbaFest’s roots are solely in the continent of Africa, a fact that vendors like Ousmane are eager to share.

“I'm so proud of my country,” he said. “ like to brag about it."

Saturday night concluded with a concert by the musical group “Jagged Edge.”

The event warps up Sunday night after legendary funk band The Ohio Players finish performing.

You can read more about KuumbaFest by clicking on the link below.


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