Monteocha non-profit hosting Homowo festival


Adanfo, a group of traditional African performers with authentic kings and queens from Ghana, will participate in Homowo Afi 2013 in the Monteocha community. (Special to the Guardian)

Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 6:21 p.m.

The Homowo Afi 2013 celebration will once again help those attending to put bad blood behind them and start anew in life with a clean slate.

Facts

HOMOWO-AFI FESTIVAL

What: The 10th annual Homowo-Afi 2013 African Festival.

When: 5-9 p.m. Friday and noon-9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; vendors, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday.

Where: Ayoka Gifts, 19024 NE 21st St., Monteocha.

Miscellaneous: On Friday, a purification ceremony will take place at Cedar Key beach.

Information: Call 352-485-2079 or visit www.ayokagifts.org.

Although its origins stem from the Ga people of Ghana in West Africa, Homowo is celebrated across the world and will be officially celebrated for the 10th time this weekend in the Monteocha community. The theme is "Uniting as One: Sharing Culture."

Featuring a purification bath, an African naming ceremony, kings and queens born in Ghana, African dancing and drumming, and vendors, Homowo Afi 2013 will be held from 5-9 p.m. Friday and noon-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with most activities taking place at Ayoka Gifts International African Cultural Center Inc. at 19024 NE 21st St. in the Monteocha community. Vendors selling African clothing, black soap, shea butter and other items will be available from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

The event is being organized by Nii Sowa-La, and his wife, Dr. D. Ayoka Jasey Sowa-La, founders and owners of Ayoka Gifts, a non-profit organization created to develop and enhance the lives of disadvantaged youths.

"Homowo celebrates the end of a cycle and the beginning of a cycle," said Nii Sowa-La, a native of Ghana. He said the significance of Homowo is that it is a time for people to rid themselves of heavy burdens they carry "in their hearts."

"If there is bad blood between villages, and even individuals, leaving that bad blood behind and moving forward allows people to start over with a fresh beginning," he said.

The highlight of the festival will be a trip to Cedar Key, leaving from Monteocha, for a purification bath, which is when people will wash away the bad things in their hearts and lives. This will take place from 5-9 p.m. Friday.

Nii Sowa-La said Homowo is celebrated traditionally when the first fruits of the planting season are ready for harvest after the peak of the rainy season in Ghana. He said the first fruits of the harvest season are honored to give thanks to God for providing the food and resources needed to sustain life.

"It also reminds us not to be stingy," he said. "You give, you receive and you receive, you give."

On Saturday, the event will feature the Buffalo Soldiers and Buffalo Riders horse riders of Gainesville; a car show parade by the Coming Home Antique Car Club of Hawthorne; appearances by Adanfo, a group with some authentic kings and queens from Ghana who now live in Syracuse, N.Y.; an African naming ceremony, African dancing and drumming, and a sweet potato pie contest with a grand prize of $100.

On Sunday, the event will feature comedy, drama, gospel and spoken word performances.

Jasey Sowa-La said Brenda Dalley of Deland will be the only person participating in the African naming ceremony. She said there is a process involved in the African naming ceremony that will prevent others from participating. However, she said anyone interested in receiving an African name should contact Ayoka Gifts.

Dalley, who also will be a vendor selling her homemade bath products, said she is excited about the naming ceremony.

"I have done research and tried to understand where I come from to connect with my ancestors and it was by the grace of God that I met Dr. Ayoka at a Juneteenth celebration I co-hosted in Deland two years ago," said Dalley, adding that she attended the Homowo festival last year and had an awesome spiritual experience. "I can't wait to get back to rural Gainesville this weekend."

Jasey Sowa-La said the Irving Sisters of Gainesville will be one of the groups performing on Sunday and all faith-based organizations are invited to attend the festival.

"Sunday will be International Spiritual Day and we are inviting the entire religious community to come together and share in the celebration of Homowo," she said. "Representatives from all faith-based organizations are invited to bring greetings from their organizations."

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