The distinctiveness of New Orleans’ cultural milieu, the city’s dance styles, and culinary flavors owe much to the African diaspora. So, on July 27, The Taste of Africa Mini Fest, a new collaboration between the Nola Caribbean Experience and Afrobeat Nola, will celebrate these cultural elements, showcasing just how thankful New Orleans is for its African influences.
Wynton Marsalis, the son of Ellis Marsalis, Jr. and a renowned band leader in his own right, once said, “Every strand of American music comes directly from Congo Square.” In 1724, the French colonists “allowed” the enslaved people in the Louisiana Territory one day out of the week to rest from their normal schedule of unforgiving labor. Later, when it came to assimilating African culture into the colony, the Louisiana Creoles proved less authoritarian and suppressive than the Protestants in other territories. But, in 1817, the city’s mayor restricted gatherings of enslaved people to a space at the back of New Orleans, an area which became known as Congo Square.
Eventually, as the congregations at Congo Square grew and the area became famous for its dancing and music and the rest of New Orleans began to expand around it. What was once the back of the city became the French Quarter’s vivacious heart. Congo Square, a haven for the African diaspora, influenced generations of New Orleans musicians, and it became essential in the years following the Civil War, popularizing jazz and other Black American art forms.
To celebrate the musical influence of the African diaspora, The Taste of Africa Mini Fest will feature a lineup consisting of Nkiruka African Dance Company, Nigerian singer Fire, Togalese singer Kogjo, DJ T-Roy, Nigerian DJ Ojay, Majek Fingers Drumming and Afro-Exotica. Kogjo, the hypeman of Afrobeat Nola, will host the event. In addition to various arts and crafts vendors and cuisine from Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Haiti and New Orleans, there will also be an African dance competition and Pepper Soup eating contest.
A family friendly event, the festival will take place from 4 p.m. to midnight at the Deja Vieux Food Truck Park, at 1681 Religious St. General admission tickets are $10, and VIP tickets are $25. Advanced ticket sales are available through Events.com.