History, food and culture attract hundreds to Emancipation festival

A family in traditional African wear, taking a stroll through the National Park at the Emancipation Day Celebrations yesterday

Hundreds turned out to the Emancipation Festival 2017, which was held yesterday at the National Park in Georgetown.

The event, hosted by the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA), saw people of all races in attendance.  Almost everywhere you turned at the venue, there were persons, young and old, clad in traditional African attire from head (where they wore intricate head wraps) to toe (well-crafted leather slippers).

From the southern entrance of the park, there were booths offering information on the history of slavery in Guyana and around the world. Patrons were also told of how the slaves gained their freedom some 179 years ago and the village movement which occurred thereafter. Those who were not satisfied with what was read from detailed posters could also look at pictures that were hung in the booths. Parents, too, used the occasion to pass down history to their children.

Among the other attractions at the festival was the food. The food on sale included mouth-watering delicacies such as Conkie, Metemgee, the different varieties of Cook Up, Black and White Pudding, Foo Foo and two-coloured Sugar-Cakes.

Many flocked to the food stalls to taste from the hands of the cooks. The cooks, too, received satisfaction, when patrons return for seconds and gave them a two “thumbs up” for well-done tasty dishes.

Also featured at the festival were the enchanting rhythms of the drums. ACDA member Kenneth Whyte, a drumming instructor, and his young students entertained a small crowd with the pulsating rhythms. Some of the students, as young as five years, did not disappoint, as they kept up with the older ones and their instructor. The beats of the drums enlivened the atmosphere for the spectators, both local and foreign, including a China Medical team, whose members took pictures and videos.

Apart from the history, the food and the drumming, the festival also served to highlight craft, ranging from beaded necklaces and bands to straw and leather bags, shoes and belts, and beautiful African prints. While getting her hands on a print, one woman related to Stabroek News that it was all that she wore. “African prints don’t ever go out of style my dear. You can sew them and wear them to a wedding, funeral, graduation, anything you want to go to, throw on a print,” she said while laughing. Apart from African prints, tie-dyed pieces were also on sale.

Families were also entertained through song, poetry, dance and other cultural items and there were also activities for children and those channeling their ‘inner child’ at the games stalls that were set up.

When Stabroek News asked some families what was the best part about the festivities in the park, some commented on the wholesome entertainment and just being out with family and seeing old and friendly faces. “One thing I would take away from this is seeing the faces of my children when we go to the history booths and I read to them what happened to the slaves who were freed so many years ago,” one mother with three children said.

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