Dec. 23—After having to cancel last year due to the pandemic, the annual Kwanzaa celebration returns this Wednesday.
Honoring the celebration of African heritage through performance, art, food, clothing and artifacts remains the goal, according to Bakari Sanyu, director of the Sankofa Collective, a nonprofit organization aimed at providing education on African culture.
“Each year, our Kwanzaa programs are always culture-focused. That’s our intention.”
From December 26 to January 1, Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration of African heritage that recognizes the nguzo saba, or seven principles of unity, faith, creativity, collective work and responsibility, purpose, self-determination and cooperative economy.
Most celebrations are community driven with family centered activities to allow for the highest level of engagement.
Performances this year include Eyo, the Stilt Walker. Stilt walkers are known as moko jumbie, a term from the Caribbean islands (“moko” meaning healer and “jumbie” being slang for a ghost or spirit).
“They’ve been using this tradition for years,” Sanyu said. “It’s something unique. You usually see it in many Kwanzaa celebrations in the United States.”
The Teye Sa Thiosanne Drum & Dance Company will also perform and someone will read African folk tales.
There will also be an exhibition featuring works from Sanyu’s Harambee Art Gallery, which has more than 80 pieces he has collected from across the United States over more than 40 years.
Sanyu is also helping to gather community contributions from those who wish to contribute pieces from their personal collections for the event.
The celebration will also feature at least 10 local vendors with a variety of items for sale.
Sanyu said, “Each year, we extend an open invitation to our community to come and showcase the cultural goods they have – cultural clothing that you can’t find in department stores, African handicrafts, baskets and jewelry and that sort of thing.”
A returning seller is Ethnic Boutique, a boutique on Ming Avenue specializing in colorful and trendy African fashion. Sanyu noted that if those planning to attend wish to purchase African clothes to wear for the celebration, which is encouraged, they can visit the shop in advance.
“They have time to buy African clothes here locally from a store here in Bakersfield, to help celebrate in their own way,” he said.
Refreshments will also be provided by New Spirit Women’s Group, one of the event’s sponsors and co-partners. Although he doesn’t know what the group will have this year, Sanyu said that in 2019, black-eyed pea soup was served.
Since last year’s event was canceled, Sanyu expects a good turnout for Wednesday’s event at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center, with around 200 to 300 people.
It also encourages people to take what they learn at the event as a starting point to the diversity of African culture.
“Africa is a continent with over 3,000 ethnic groups. … No one should expect anyone to showcase every aspect of their culture.”
Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.