Celebrate harvest time at African festival

Published: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 5:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 5:10 p.m.

Real live African kings and queens and African cuisine, dancing and drumming will highlight activities at the 11th annual Homowo-Afi festival held to show reverence to God, by offering him the first fruits of the harvest season.



* What: The 11th annual Homowo-Afi 2013 African Festival

* When: 5:30-9 p.m. Aug. 1 and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Aug. 2; vendors, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Aug 1-2

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

* Miscellaneous: On Aug. 1, a purification ceremony will take place at night

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

The event is organized and sponsored by Dr. Nii Sowa-La and his wife, the Rev. Dr. E. Ayoka Jasey-Nii Sowa-La, owners of the Ayoka Gifts International African Cultural Center Inc. in the Monteocha community. The festival will be held from 5:30-9 p.m. Aug. 1 and 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Aug. 2 at 19024 NE 21st St. in the Monteocha community.

Nii Sowa-La said Homowo-Afi 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 are honored to give thanks to God for providing the food and resources needed to sustain life.

Jasey-Nii Sowa-La said she is expecting more than 25 food and other vendors, adding that fried fish and crabs and other seafood will be the main dishes sold on Aug. 1. She also said African cuisine will be featured both days and "festive food" is a part of all Homowo celebrations around the world.

Nii Sowa-La said the staples of festive foods are corn and fish. He said corn and fish have symbolic meanings to Homowo-Afi because both have been staple food sources for all civilizations and both represent the power of God to rejuvenate all things.

There also will be a tree-planting ceremony on Aug. 1 at the beginning of the festival to honor the Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Wright Sr., pastor emeritus at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Gainesville, and the late Deacon Willie Williams of Dayspring Baptist Church for their community service.

Beginning at 9 a.m. on Aug. 2, two African groups from Ghana and Nigeria will be on hand to teach free African dancing and drumming lessons and to teach those attending how to tie the traditional African hair piece known as a gele.

There also will be numerous performances on Aug. 2, including a "battle of the bands" event between the two African groups. Jasey-Nii Sowa-La said the leaders of both groups have played with Church Davis, a world renown drummer. Also on Aug. 2, there will be a sweet potato pie contest to determine who makes the best sweet potato pie in Alachua and surrounding counties.

Although the deadline to apply to be a vendor has passed, Jasey-Nii Sowa-La said vendors can apply for space through July 31.

"There is a lot of space at the festival for anybody who wants to be a vendor," she said.

Those interested in being vendors or entering the sweet potato pie contest should call 352-485-2079.

Nii Sowa-La is a native of Ghana in Africa where Homowo originated. He said the festival also includes a purification bath where people wash away the bad things in their hearts and lives. This will take place on Aug. 1 at an undisclosed body of water after the festival is over.

Jasey-Nii Sowa-La said although stage events will conclude at 9 p.m. on both nights, the fellowship among those attending the festival will last until the last person leaves.

"There's an ordinance that mandates that stage activities must end at 9, but people will be able to have a merry time as long as they want," she said. "This is an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate each other, and more importantly, African culture."

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