On Saturday, Afrofest hosted their second annual celebration of African culture, community and culinary tradition at the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre.
The afternoon included performances by Sudbury, Toronto, and Ottawa afro artists, as well as a bouncy castle, face painting, vendors, and food from the Sudbury African Market and Fire Flame Jerk House.
Sudbury's Afrofest was introduced by Tonye Oriaskhi last year in partnership with Bayo Gegeogu and Shade Onajobi, owner of the Sudbury African Market, to connect Sudbury's African community and share African culture with Northern Ontario. The event celebrates all African countries and island nations with African heritage said Oriaskhi, in honour of Sudbury's diverse African population.
Oriaskhi moved to Sudbury from Nigeria in 2011, where she attended Cambrian College for social service work and later, Laurentian University for social work. She admits her time as a student was lonely, as she found it difficult to find events she would feel comfortable attending alone.
This was part of what inspired her to introduce an annual cultural celebration, following her graduation.
"I started thinking, maybe I can start something and bring a little bit of Afro culture to share with the community and make us a little bit more comfortable in our environment," she said.
After months of discussion with fellow Nigerians Gegeogu and Onajobi and being declined by numerous sponsorship opportunities, Oriaskhi said the group decided to stop talking about it and just do it. Despite funding concerns, Oriashki said it was important to the organizers that Afrofest remains a free event.
"We didn't start it to make money out of it, we just wanted to bring people out and celebrate together," said Oriaskhi.
Many took advantage of the opportunity to celebrate Saturday, including local Helen Florentis, who saw this as an opportunity to introduce her daughter Thaleia to more of her African culture.
"If you don’t know where you come from, you can’t have a clear vision forward," said Florentis. "You can’t have a plan for your future if you can’t have security in yourself."
To build confidence in children like Thaleia and encourage them to bond with their heritage, Oriaskhi said they will be introducing a Miss and Mister Afrofest pageant next year, for school-aged children.
For someone like me, who knew no one when I moved to Sudbury, I would hope this event shows that there is a community here to support them, she said. "I hope it lets them know that there is home here as well."
To encourage the community's development moving forward, Oriaskhi said she will be introducing "Afro Lounges" at the Asylum Nightclub in the near future. These adult events will celebrate different African countries and communities each month with a new theme and set of activities.