On the 3rd Annual African Cultures & Arts Festival
Why Grand Forks Needs the African Cultures and Arts Festival |
By Dr. Bridget Tetteh-Batsa,
Professor of Non-Fiction writing at the University of North Dakota.
3rd Annual African Culture & Arts Festival: An Invitation to Cross-Cultural Dialogue
African Arts Arena guarantees collaborative space for cross-cultural dialogue and engagement in Grand Forks, ND., and indeed the Mid-West region. The organization facilitates art and art-performances that demystify Africa’s multi-textured traditions and/or aspirations. It also provides space for the kind of cross-cultural learning that translates into the tangible human stories we point to as evidence for and of our burgeoning cultural/social diversity.
The organization’s annual African Culture and Arts Festival is its more public and so readily accessible space for cross-cultural learning and participation. This year’s festival featured community-centered panel discussions on the “role of arts in an inclusive and welcoming community,” African Art exhibitions and learning tours hosted and sponsored by the North Dakota Museum of Arts, and a culminating African music and dance festival punctuated with fashion shows trained on the synchrony of colors and designs populating traditional and modern dress habits in selected African countries.
To be sure, the festival’s success hinges on community participation and interest. Grand Forks, North Dakota brings organic enthusiasm for, or interest in the spaces encircled for art and art performance---this is on account of consequent opportunities for inter-cultural trekking, awareness, and friendships. In other words, African Arts Arena both signifies and assures North Dakota and the region’s diverse cultural and linguistic landscape.
The panel discussion on the symbiotic relationship between art, art performance, and community inclusion, for instance, drew residents and community activists who contributed to panel-led perspectives on how art-performance generates therapeutic outlets, fosters socio-economic inclusion, assuages racial tensions, and bridges differences. The scheduled tour of African art-pieces also offered additional learning space for art-enthusiasts in the state and region. Of course, the culminating Saturday evening celebration offered more than an opportunity to congregate for delicious African food [although experts swear cross-cultural feasts allow for acceptance and respect as partakers exchange and transmit norms, values, and social etiquettes]. At its crescendo, the Saturday evening festival showcased reverberating drum and dance routines from Ghana, for example, that prompted sporadic rhythmic dancing from assembled audience both African and Non-African—a cultural communion if you will. Affecting song performances from Haiti also reinforced that cultural dialogue and connection as accompanying harmonies and tunes flitted past lyrical language [otherwise inaccessible to non-speakers] into agreeable souls---feet tapping, shoulders swaying, souls meeting.
This year’s African Culture and Arts festival certainly created space for cross-cultural engagement. It was the community’s call to cultural participation, an invitation to expand that bridge to social/cultural inclusivity in Grand Forks, ND., and in the Mid-West region.