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Glimpse of Africa festival to offer showcase of local talent, businesses

Glimpse of Africa festival to offer showcase of local talent, businesses

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Residents can get a glimpse of the diverse and rich cultures of African nations on Saturday, Aug. 10, at the city’s first African festival. A Glimpse of Africa is a free, family friendly event that will showcase the cultures of different African countries through fashion, art, food, dance, music, poetry, art and craft. Fridah Kanini, founder of the festival, is a native of Kenya, a country on Africa’s east coast. When she arrived in Michigan almost 15 years ago, she noticed the lack of representation for African talent and businesses in Grand Rapids. “There’s so many communities of Africans here doing different things, but we don’t have anywhere to showcase it,” Kanini said. Kanini was encouraged by friends to start an event planning business while in between jobs in 2017. During that time, she started her own business, Flora’s Elegant Events. After designing events for friends, family and her church community, Kanini had the idea to bring African culture to Grand Rapids with her own event. “I always thought of a festival, but I just didn’t know where to start,” she said. Kanini said she spent hundreds of hours in the library doing research on where to begin with her new idea. “It started fun, but once I got to the nitty-gritty, I figured out how hard it is,” she said. It wasn’t until she met Angela Nelson, vice president of multicultural business development for Experience GR, at a volunteer event that she learned she should reach out to the Office of Special Events for the city of Grand Rapids. Kanini got approved by the office for the festival, and in August 2018, she started recruiting for sponsors and volunteers to help with the event. A preview to the larger festival was hosted this past March to get the community engaged with the thought of an African festival. Kanini said well over 300 people attended. Kanini said she has three goals for the festival: to be informative, bring people together and to give African business owners a platform. She wanted to ensure she represented a wide variety of African countries at the festival so people would come to understand and distinguish their differences. Kanini said she “wanted to make it warm and welcome” for all Africans. A flag ceremony during the festival will represent each African country with their individual flags. Authentic foods from several African countries will be available such as chapati and stewed lentils, jollof rice and chicken and salad, African doughnuts, chicken stew and pap, turkey knuckles and mandazi, meatballs, ginger beer and Chai tea. Fashion designers and models will showcase a variety of African clothing, while vendors will be selling authentic African prints, carvings and other merchandise. Included in the entertainment lineup is Ibrahim Konbloa, otherwise known as Whisko. Whisko is a Liberian rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer for reggae/dancehall, hipco, hiphop and afro-pop genres. Whisko initially gained recognition as a soccer player at East Kentwood High School. Whisko had always done music, but it was in early 2014 when he became intent on pursuing a career as an artist. Since then he has released several songs. Interactive activities such as hair braiding, henna tattoos, headwrap tutorials and quizzes will also give festival goers an opportunity to dive into the different cultures. Kanini said she would like to do another festival in 2020, but with a bit more help. A Glimpse of Africa takes place on Saturday, Aug.10 from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. at Rosa Parks Circle, 135 Monroe Center St. NW. For more information, visit A Glimpse of Africa GR on Facebook.

Glimpse of Africa festival to offer showcase of local talent, businesses

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