“The music allows you to lose yourself in the rhythm, which is the biggest challenge in today’s scenario. West African music being tribal, resonates through your body and centres you emotionally,” says Yashdeep Khare, member of the Sunshine Ensemble. The band had the audience clapping to the rhythm of the African drums, called djembe, at the Akshara Theatre in Delhi for the Spirit of Africa Festival, held recently. The festival organised in collaboration with the P[ART]icle Collective, was not just a celebration of African culture but an effort to spark conversations over racism and work towards inclusion.
“There are so many attacks and assaults on Africans, and lot of it is because Indians are not very exposed to African culture,” said Anasuya Vaidya of Akshara Theatre. Vaidya’s team performed My Child Yaaba, a children’s play written by Ghanian writer, Ama Ata Aidoo. “It is important to expose children to different cultures. While it is a different country and era, they found a lot of resonance with their own culture. The characters live in a big joint family in a village in Ghana with all the mothers, aunts and uncles, much like we do in India,” she added. The venue was lined with stalls selling African garments, authentic Ethopian coffee and food, such as injira, which tastes a lot like dosa, and a hair-styling kiosk.
Films centred around Africans living in India were also screened, followed by a discussion with the filmmakers. Vatsala Singh’s short film Africans are Peddlers, Cannibals, Ha**mi: India’s Racism Exposed, focusses on the narratives of Africans who have faced harrowing incidents in Delhi. The tribute to modern African literature continued with a dramatic reading of poems by Maya Angelou and Chinua Achebe.