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Woezo African festival goes in-person for first time in three-year run

The Woezo Africa Cultural Festival will be returning this August for a third year, and for the first time, in-person.

Calgarians will get to experience two days filled with African music, dance performances, family-friendly arts and crafts workshops, a bustling cultural fair, an immersive visual art and jam session, and a community-oriented networking mixer.

The festival takes place on Aug. 26 and 27 at the Central Library.

According to Wunmi Idowu, the founder and director of Woezo Africa Music and Dance Theatre, the festival aims to share with and educate the community on the artistry and innovation that exists within African culture.

Idowu said the festival has been held in Nigeria since 2007, The festival was first brought to Canada in 2020.

“In 2020, we decided to have it in Canada for the first time in Calgary, but because of the pandemic we were only able to do it virtually,” said Idowu.

“We did that in 2020 and 2021, and it was very successful.”

A unique mix of different artistic practices

According to Idowu, the festival is unique as it brings different artistic practices together. Day one of the festival will feature dance, music, and spoken word performances.

Day two features the “Africa is not a country, it’s a continent storytelling workshop,” cultural fair, and a professional networking mixer for entrepreneurs.

Idowu said the festival is important to Calgary as there isn’t a festival like it in Calgary that highlights the importance of African culture.  

“Being a cultural festival, we want to ensure that we’re able to have different facets of Africa and we want it to be built in a way that is educational as well as very impactful,” she said.

The festival website highlights the goal to educate Calgarians about the way that African, Caribbean, and Black cultural practices are part of mainstream culture in Canada.

Festival important to change perspectives on Africa

The former social secretary of the Bafut Manjong Calgary Association, Ebenezer Choebefu, said having a festival like the Woezo Africa Cultural Festival is important. Especially, he said, for African children born outside of Africa.

Choebefu said television showcases the negative side of Africa. The festival, he said, would allow people to have a better more positive understanding of Africa.

“The organizers of the festival did a great initiative to not only to showcase the culture, but also to portray it to those who watch TV to not judge the continent on what they see on TV,” said Choebefu.

Speaking about that positive content, he said that “African culture is associated a lot with traditional dancing and movement.”

A traditional Bafut Manjong cultural dance is one type of dance is planned to be performed at the festival.

Calgarians interested in participating can purchase tickets at the Woezo Africa Cultural Festival website.