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African Festival of Boston returns for 13th year

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
African Festival of Boston returns for 13th year
Scene from a previous year's festival. PHOTO: COURTESY AFRICAN FESTIVAL OF BOSTON

Mireille Tushiminina launched the African Festival of Boston 13 years ago to celebrate the Independence Day anniversaries of many African countries, including her native Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, the festival has become a community staple, bringing together African immigrants around Boston to celebrate their heritage and their chosen home here in the Hub.

Young dancers perform at a previous African Festival of Boston. PHOTO: COURTESY AFRICAN FESTIVAL OF BOSTON

“Most of us came from the continent and Boston is home. It’s still a struggle to see the disparity in inclusion, it’s still there,” says Tushiminina. “We should be collectively striving together to make Boston, Massachusetts, a place that embraces cultural diversity.”

Culture will certainly be plentiful at the festival. The afro-fusion group Wazumbians will headline the music lineup joined by The Nomidians, Kitoko Grooves, Ary Morais and many others.

Moroccan dance group Lionesses El Atlas will perform, and festivalgoers can take African dance classes throughout the weekend with The Dance Complex. Local vendors will offer food, arts and other goods, and Nahdra Ra Kiros, local fashion designer and founder of African Fashion Week and The House of Nahdra, will showcase pieces from her line.

African crafts and jewelry on display at a previous year’s festival. PHOTO: COURTESY AFRICAN FESTIVAL OF BOSTON

“I am Ethiopian and a Roxbury native, so this is really the best to celebrate our legacy,” says Ra Kiros. “I really appreciate the beautiful melting pot of cultural diversity in Boston. Our African culture is alive and well here and it is a magnificent legacy to be celebrated.”

Tushiminina coordinates the festival in collaboration with the Shalupe Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting refugees from Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly those fleeing gender-based violence. According to festival literature, this is the largest African festival in New England. Culture is an important piece of the experience, but the weekend is not all lighthearted dancing and socialization.

Education will be at the forefront of the festival as well. New to the festival this year is the Cultural Book Heritage Village highlighting local African authors and their work. Author and illustrator Thato Rantao Mwosa will share one of her latest works, “14 African Women Who Made History.” Representatives from Boston University’s African Studies Center K-16 Education Outreach Program will provide educational activities for the youth participants of the festival. Workshops will also be held on financial literacy, resume building and exploring the future of AI.

The crowd enjoys a performance at a previous year’s festival. PHOTO: COURTESY AFRICAN FESTIVAL OF BOSTON

The African Festival of Boston takes place on Boston Common Aug. 19-20. The festival is free and open to the public.

Tushiminina says the diverse set of programming is part of the appeal of the festival. “That’s how we see the growth and new attendance every year.” And grow it has. What began as a small celebration now sees hundreds of people each year. The festival outgrew its location on the Rose Kennedy Greenway and is now hosted at Boston Common.

“It’s quite exciting because it started as a small thing, hey, let’s celebrate,” says Tushiminina. “But now it became something that every year people are looking forward to.”

Africa, African Festival of Boston, arts, dance, music