The African Culture – GHANAFEST 2012

The African Culture – GHANAFEST 2012

By Jennifer Osei Nartey
Bridging the Gap of Togetherness through Cultural Diversity

CHICAGO:- The yearly reminder and the celebration of the Ghanaian cultural festival have come around again just like it has for the past 24 years. Ghanafest is a gateway for Ghanaians in the Diaspora to celebrate Summer together.

Held on the last Saturday of the month of July, the Ghanaian festival of Arts, culture, food, music, education, entertainment and promotion of the Ghanaian tradition and culture has been celebrated yearly. Each year the festival has grown in color, attendance, participation, entertainment enthusiasm, public knowledge and international recognition.

The Organization of this yearly festival has over the years fallen on the shoulders of the Ghana National Council (GNC), the Executive body and representatives of the 10 Regional affiliates of Ghana.

If this is the first time you are hearing about the Ghana fest, may be a little insight into its purpose would help you appreciate the valuable role it has played and continues to do so in the expansion of the Ghanaian cultural horizon and helping shape the image of our country and its people. Bringing the people together, bridging the gap of ethnicity, and helping our children learn, understand and know their African heritage and lineage, the festival itself has grown to serve as a social tool of bringing together Ghanaians from all walks of life, background, social status and ethnicity. You will meet people from your past, lost acquaintances, friends, old and new, fascinators, admirers and ordinary people from the neighborhood who come to find out what the sound of new music, the beat of the ‘fontomfrom’ (traditional drums) and the cheers of patrons could mean. This is where we get to showcase our pride; this is where we put on our cultural best; this is where the masses come out in numbers to see kings and queens in full regalia, riding in palanquins and waving to the crowd and finally this is the cultural display of the pomp and pageantry that has made Ghanafest a must see. This is also the place to see the GA Adangbes display “wo gbe gyeke”, the Ewes drum out the borborbo and the Ashanti’s exquisite display of Adowa leaves you proud.

Ghana festival of Arts and Culture, Ghana fest as it’s popularly known, it’s the most anticipated social gathering of not only Ghanaians or Africans but people from other places and cultures. People from the Diaspora look forward to this festival each year. This social event has also served as a gateway for cultural awareness of other people in Chicago and the world over. The eagerness with which we look forward to this event each year is worth of mention. Right from the beginning of the year, we mark off our calendars and highlight that day. Those from out of state call in to make sure of the date so they can make their plans. All are invited and encouraged to come to Washington Park during this time so we can show off our rich festival.

There are 10 tribal affiliates that are traditionally and culturally represented. There is also the Ghana Chicago club and the friendship Club. These associations represent each region in Ghana. During the festival, Kings, Queens, kinsmen and anyone who hails from that region, feel a strong bond of connection to their tribal affiliation no matter if they have been home or not but as long as they know they hail from there or have ancestral roots in that region, they troop to support them in dance and song around the festival ground. The cultural display is the highlight of the festival. The colorful display of rich traditional clothing, sometimes purposely made for this day, and throwing your eyes around the ground, all one can see is a sea of beautiful spectacle. Over the years these cultural displays of variety has gingered up enthusiasm, pride, participation and a sense of togetherness for the people and even for visitors or curious onlookers who may or may not belong to any region or affiliation. The sheer show of solidarity and love prompts an instant sense of belonging. You should see the interest of astonished onlookers who look on with admiration at the exposure of nationality and just for a day, a community, its people, their pride, culture, and overall unity is displayed for the world to see.

The festival not only affords us the display of dance and music but a taste of Ghana through our culinary stands. An array of mouthwatering dishes are prepared all around the festival grounds bringing a mall of home to us and reminding us and visitors the indigenes taste of our food, its origin and its people. Every taste of Ghana can be found here. Most people come just for the food. From the jollof rice, waakye, kenkey, bofrot, kelewele, banku and tilapia to of course some good old American finger foods, patrons are treated to some good eating.

Vendors from other nationalities have also gradually become part of this festival with a chance to bring their food, drinks and culture to display. Small and corporate business participation has grown tremendously. These merchants have seen this festival as a huge avenue to advertise and sell their merchandise to all who have come to witness this gregarious event. From the small vendor selling his African artifacts, clothing, books, to the corporate vendors marketing their travel agency, housing, banking or money transfer, Ghana fest is seen as a huge opportunity to have fun while making money at the same time.
The event has also attracted very important dignitaries and executive official s past and present. It has brought past presidents from Ghana, mayors, and other luminaries from Chicago and around the US. The City of Chicago has been a great source of support over the years and this year Governor Pat Quinn is the scheduled guest speaker.

This year the festival has been projected to grow in size, participation, attendance, and class. The theme for this year is “Bridging the Gap of Togetherness through Cultural Diversity“. As we groom our children with our knowledge of whom we are, where we come from, our beliefs and traditions, it is our hope the next generation will uphold, celebrate, encourage and pass this vital event on to the next. To the people of today and anyone with Ghanaian affiliation or ancestry or descendants, bring along people who admire our rich culture and tradition so they can cherish and appreciate and display our pride. We may all not have the opportunity to attend big festivals like Odwira or Afahye but this is our way of bringing home to us. Many have heard of our beautiful motherland , many have come to see our festival, many come to have a taste of our food, others come to have sense of a rich culture and people, others come to be reminded of who they are yet still we all come together to celebrate Ghana.

So no matter who you are or where you come from, if this year maybe your first or your tenth like the author, let us meet up again and reunite to celebrate. Come see old friends, whilst making new ones. Come sing along to the familiar tunes of the motherland and share in the pride of Mother Ghana.

To the Organizers’ currently and over the years, your task is daunting. Without your selfless effort, Ghanafest will not have been born, bred and matured to this date. You are the reason we get to enjoy each year. You have done a Herculean task. We thank you for bringing this sociable occasion to us year after year through our people, our culture, food, fun, entertainment, unity and pride. Thank you for bringing home to us. Keep up the good work! To you dear reader, we look forward to seeing you on Saturday July 28th at 5600 South Russell Drive off Garfield Blvd(55th St) and Martin Luther King Drive west of DuSable Museum in Chicago. Come in your numbers, bring your neighbors, bring friends, and family. Come one, come all!

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