Event brings Africa home to Edmonton
Africa Connect was a celebration of the United Nations International Year for People of African Descent. Sponsored by the City, the one day affair was held at the spacious Expo Centre on Sat June 18. From 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., there were free live performances, a marketplace with over 100 vendors, and informative learning sessions. In the evening, there was a dinner, an address by the mayor, and a live performance of the Juno award winning band African Guitar Summit.
My handicapped son and I spent several hours at the afternoon show. He was thrilled by the drummers and I bought 2 lovely copper bracelets.
I ‘m not of African descent but I do have a few connections. I was first exposed to African culture as a very young child. My Air Force uncle brought home some records from South Africa. The music was called High Life. I’ve never forgotten the lilting melodies and rippling rhythms.
In 1976, I spent a very rewarding year in South Africa. I worked in an underground theatre in Cape Town. The Space was a “poor” theatre. There was very little money for props, sets, or costumes. All the Space had was, “two bare boards and a passion.” This is the credo of poor theatres everywhere. The highlight of this adventure was my appearance in a play called “Yesterdays News.” I played a journalist in this show, which was about mercenary warfare in Angola.
On opening night, the director of the theatre pointed out the secret policemen seated prominently in the front row. The Space was under constant surveillance because it employed black actors. I like to think this valiant little company played a small role in the fight for freedom in South Africa.
I lived for many years in low income housing in McCauley. The complex was a haven for new Canadians from Africa. I had many pleasant acquaintances and made two good friends. One is a young mother, the other a single male. Both are Ethiopian and both are intensely spiritual. One is a committed Christian and the other, a devout Muslim. The mother told me the food in her country is “so good, when the rains come.”
Both told me that, in Africa, if one person has food everyone has food. You can go “anywhere” and get fed. I wonder what these gentle, generous souls think of us over-eating, overweight Canadians.
Even my son has African connections. Many of the staff in his group home are Africans. These cheerful workers are competent, dependable, and very caring. I’ve had lively political discussions with people from Liberia, Sudan, and Cameroon.
One African worker said to my son: “Aaron, you’re my brother.”
“Oh no,” said Aaron, “you can’t be my brother. My mother is white.”
For some, Africa Connect was a one day event. For others, Africa is always with us.