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Sunday, May 18, 2008

African Festa opens eyes in Yokohama


Staff writer

YOKOHAMA — With the Tokyo International Conference on African Development to be held in Yokohama later this month, a two-day cultural event kicked off Saturday to bring a taste of Africa to Japan's famous harbor city.

News photo
Soothing vibes: Ousmane Diedhiou, a native of Senegal, plays a balophon at African Festa 2008 in Yokohama on Saturday. KAZUAKI NAGATA PHOTO

The annual African Festa is normally held at Hibiya Park in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward to introduce Africa to the public.

This year, however, the festival is being held at the Red Brick Warehouse in Yokohama and features a number of TICAD-related events, including talk shows featuring Japanese artists and celebrities.

On Saturday, the event drew thousands of visitors who browsed the dozens of information booths and caught a variety of African shows and performances while sampling the cuisine on offer.

On site were booths from 59 nongovernmental organizations, 33 embassies and other entities.

Events like the African Fashion Show livened up the atmosphere at Festa, and many visitors themselves could be seen in colorful African dresses, checking out accessories, instruments, clothing and other products from Africa.

Saitama resident Airi Shimada, who is married to a Malian, came to the event with her family.

She said the event shows that Africa has colorful cultures despite the negative TV broadcasts that often focus on refugees and famine.

Shimada, 34, said she attends the festa every year and hopes the event will give people a chance to learn more about African cultures.

Ayako Hasegawa, 21, of Kanagawa Prefecture said she had fun with her friend here, Yohei Noguchi, 22.

"I like this welcoming and friendly atmosphere of the event with some music going on," said Hasegawa, who was attending African Festa for the first time.

She said they were enjoying getting more familiar with African cultures.

"It's not that we can go to Africa anytime we want, so I think this is a very good opportunity," she said.

African Festa, which is sponsored by the Foreign Ministry and co-organized by the city of Yokohama, opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. The event runs until Sunday and admission is free.



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