Caitlin Reddie Reports
O’CONNELL Street and Hanover Street were alive and bustling with atmosphere last week with Waterford’s annual Africa Day. The day, which featured a wide range of stalls, street performers, and live music, ran from 11 am – 3pm, on Thursday June 6th.The colourful and vibrant day began with Mayor Declan Doocey welcoming everyone to the event.“I’d like to welcome you all here today and to acknowledge the hard work done by so many volunteer groups and from Waterford City and County Council,” he said.
He then went on to say how heartening it has been to watch this event grow each year, saying he hopes Africa Day will continue long into the future. Mayor Doocey concluded his speech by saying: “I’m looking forward to hearing the great variety of music and tasting the traditional dishes that have been prepared. Congratulations to you all.” Towards the end of the day when asked how he had enjoyed it, he said the day had been “delightful” and described the event as “full of life”.He thanked the African community for inviting him to attend.
Katherine Collins, Coordinator for the Cultural Quarter, played a huge role in organising the event, as well as Waterford City and County Council. Emily Smyth, from Waterford City and County Council, explained that this has been the second of the Africa Day events to be held on O’Connell Street, having previously been held in Ballybeg, Ballybricken, and The Forum.
“It’s my first year taking part in the event, and so far the response has been fantastic. I think it works well staging the day on O’Connell Street,” she said.
The numerous stalls that lined the streets showcased a range of African cultures and countries, such as Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and the Congo. The stalls featured African jewellery, cuisine, and very popular Ethiopian coffee, just to mention a few. Samples of traditional foods and drinks were handed out to attendees, all of which seemed to have great response.Crowds formed quickly to watch ‘Igbo’ dancers who moved down the streets, as well as the street performers on who passed on stilts and bicycles. Each year the event focuses around a specific ‘sense,’ with sound being the sense of this year’s Africa Day. Pj (Patience Mungenga) who lives in New Ross and is originally from the Congo, brought life to the crowd as he was DJ for the day, teaching spectators African facts and getting them involved.
Minnie Marley from South Africa performed vocals on stage, singing songs from her original albums.
Sasha Terfous, a Waterford local, performed beautiful ‘spoken word’ poetry speaking of how it felt to grow up in Waterford as half Nigerian half Irish; an experience she says has been ‘interesting.’ She read an original poem called ‘Identity,’ speaking of living in an all-white neighbourhood and missing out on her African culture. When asked how she felt the day was going she said: “It’s amazing. It’s great to see all the different and diverse cultures of Africa. I think a lot of people use ‘Africa’ as a blanket term and don’t realise all the diversity there is.”
Ms. Terfous also said that Africa Day held huge importance given the large African community across Ireland.“Ireland is one country but gets a day to celebrate it globally. I think it’s only fair the African community gets 24 hours to celebrate our 54 countries,” she said.
The event seemed to attract a large crowd this year with many getting involved in the exciting activities. The rich culture and wide diversity of Africa made for a very special day in Waterford City.