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Ghanaian royalty to visit during Pan African Festival 2023

His Royal Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, King of the Asante Kingdom, Ghana will be the special guest at this year’s Pan African FestivalTT (PAFTT) commemorating Emancipation. The announcement was made following the launch of PAFTT 2023 on African Liberation Day, May 25, hosted by the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago.

At the launch, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, Simone Thorne-Mora Quinones paid particular attention to the Pan African Festival’s role in the present T&T landscape: “The late Black Stalin argues in his well-known calypso, “the Caribbean Man,” that a man who doesn’t know his history can neither build unity nor develop meaningful and lasting ideologies for himself. Today we affirm the role that commemoration plays in passing down our stories through the generations, for the sake of nation building.”

One way of passing down these stories to the next generation is the annual celebration of the drum and tribute to the ancestors and fathers of the Yoruba Village Community (East Port-of Spain). The annual Yoruba Village Drum Festival, one of the major PAFTT events, will take place on June 17 at the Yoruba Village Square, Besson Street, Port-of-Spain.

The Yoruba Village Drum Festival brings artistes, parents and children of the community and the nation together at this African Heritage Site. The Drum festival highlights the significance of the history and contribution to the development of East Port-of-Spain of the Yoruba and other African peoples who lived in this community.

At this year’s Drum Festival, Christine Duncan Mark will be the recipient of the 2023 Keeper of the Tradition Award which is given annually to someone from the Yoruba Village community who has worked diligently to preserve and develop African cultural traditions. Christine is the founder, current vice-president, dance instructor, and artistic director of the Belmont Freetown Cultural Arts & Folk Performing Company. The company has travelled around the world as cultural ambassadors of Trinidad and Tobago, performing and teaching our beautiful culture to other nations including the United Kingdom, Scotland, Germany, and Canada.

The young people of the Yoruba village community are also recognised and awarded for their achievements. This is done in keeping with the observance of the International Day of the African Child on June 16. The Day is in honour of young people who struggled and lost their lives in the Soweto Uprisig of 1976, protesting the poor quality of education, the right to be educated in their own language, and an end to apartheid. This year, the two students who will be celebrated are Cherisse James and Josiah Jordan for their outstanding achievements in academics, culture, and sports. Both are students of Morvant Laventille Secondary School.

The Yoruba Drum Festival is among the activities of this year’s Pan African Festival. Carrying the theme Creating Opportunities to Achieve Our Full Potential, this year’s observances commemorate the 185th anniversary of the emancipation of enslaved Africans in British colonies. 2023 also carries significance as the penultimate year of the International Decade for People of African Descent.

A new feature added to the Festival is a celebration in South Trinidad. Executive Chairman of ESCTT Zakiya Uzoma-Wadada explained that in the past, the activities of the Pan African Festival were often focused in Port of Spain. “We felt it was time to extended our celebration down South,” she said.

Fashion designer and founder of the Torrence Mohammed Foundation, Deron Attz will take the helm of the Southern events in collaboration with the ESCTT. The newest addition to the Pan African Festival, the south events will take place between June 17 and 19 at Palms Club, San Fernando. There will be three days of celebrations which include drumming, pan, shopping, and fashion.

Recalling the words of Africa’s distinguished Professor Ali Mazuri that the Pan African Festival was “the greatest celebration of Africa, outside of Africa,” Khafra Kambon, Founding Chairman and Director of Regional and Pan African Affairs, welcomed guests at the launch event. In his greetings, Kambon commended “the work of all those leaders in communities throughout the nation who have ensured that as celebratory as emancipation is, and ought to be, given the victory which it represents, it has retained the important elements of sacredness and remembrance.”

Special guests from the Diplomatic Corps attended the Launch and brought greetings with stories about their own African heroes and heroines and connected histories from their respective countries. Ambassadorial guests included – Ambassador Joseph Oyi, Deputy Head of Mission at the Nigerian High Commission; Venezuelan Ambassador Sanchez Cordero; Her Excellency Tania Diego Olite, Ambassador for the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba; Her Excellency Selvia Miller, Ambassador of the Embassy of the Republic of Panama; and His Excellency Victor Hugo Morales Melendez, Ambassador of the Embassy of the United Mexican States.

The activities for this year’s festival will include Shikamoo Lord Relator Calypso Concert on July 28; a remembrance rapso concert for Mark Nottingham on July 29; as well as Pan by Moonlight on July 30. An international concert is being planned on the eve of Emancipation Day, July 31.
More information of the Asantehene’s visit will be made known as the time draws near.

For further information, visit the ESCTT web site – https://www.emancipationtt.com/pan-african-festival/calendar-of-events/schedule-of-events/, and on social media (Facebook and Instagram).