BY GARRETT BURCHETT
Umuntu ngubuntu ngabantu. It is a Zulu proverb once spoken by Nelson Mandela. It means “I am because we are. A person is a person because of people.” It means that we cannot exist in our humanity alone. We need each other to be fully human. This message of inclusion and understanding embodies the vision of the Bring on the Sunshine Festival, a celebration of African cultural unique to Waterloo Region.
The festival took place at the Kitchener City Hall Rotunda on Family Day, Feb. 16. As a part of Black History Month, this festival, which launched in 2011, featured a full day of music and dancing, vendors, workshops on African drumming and dancing, delicious African cuisine and an auction that showcased artistic talent from Africa.
“When you think of Africa you think of one culture,” said Abdi Issa, promotion co-ordinator for Bring on the Sunshine. “But really, it’s a combination of many cultures, and it’s about celebrating all of it.
This authentic African experience was a way for people to appreciate the successes, positive values and beauty of Africa and its various cultures. But more than that, it was a way to empower people from cultural minorities to break down and challenge stereotypes around African identity, and build bridges between communities through the sharing of both cultural similarities and differences.
Organizers try to bring more and more to the event each and every year. The emphasis this year was on including more activities for kids, which they did in the form of a drum tree, face painting, a magic show and public skating at City Hall.
“This has just exploded from what it was six years ago,” said Issa.
The event provided a fantastic opportunity to positively impact children and youth of African descent by providing a space for them to examine and explore their heritage and identity through the arts of their culture.
In the spirit of Black History Month, it was also held to create a positive community space to celebrate African culture and identity while creating positive change in eradicating the negative impacts of discrimination.
“It’s a chance, for all Canadians, to explore the richness of African culture, and the beauty of it,” said Issa.
“Bring on the Sunshine … highlights the best and brightest of who we are as a community and invites everyone of all cultures to come and celebrate,” one person posted to the festival’s website.
The event, which is hosted in partnership with the African Canadian Association of Waterloo Region, the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre and the City of Kitchener, operates entirely on grants, donations and community support. Any surplus is given to other African organizations to strengthen the African community in Waterloo Region.
You can connect with people from the event, plus keep up-to-date on other similar events in the region, at www.bringonthesunshine.ca, or at the Bring on the Sunshine Facebook page.