11 Amazing Cultural Festivals in West African
Africa is full of colours and fun. The highlights are seen at some of its festivals. Below are 11 amazing West African Festivals you should check out whenever you plan to visit a West African country:
1. Gerewol Festival in Chad/Niger
This is an incredible and colourful festival among the Wodaabe people, an ancient group of nomadic cattle herders in the Sahel desert of West Africa. Gerewol is an extraordinary beauty contest, quite the world’s most spectacular pageant that is more fiercely contested than Miss World… well, by men who are on parade, wearing the make-up and dancing yaake for a chance to become a folklore hero and to win the heart of a new wife. The festival holds in September at the end of the rainy season.
2. PANAFEST, Ghana
Panafest is a festival of African dance, music and other performing arts. It holds in Ghana biennially for Africans and people of African descent as well as all persons committed to the well-being of Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. It launched in 1992, and has continued to witness huge following and colours. The festival mainly addresses the traumatic interruption that occurred in the natural evolution of African societies.
3. Fêtes des Masques (Festival of Masks), Ivory Coast
Fêtes des Masques is Ivory Coast’s famous annual festival which holds in November. It features colourful competitions between villages in order to find the best dancers. Fêtes des Masques is used to pay homage to the forested spirits embodied by the villagers who wear colourful costumes and fabulous, handcrafted masks (many handed down from one generation to another) during the festival.
4. Festival au Désert, Mali
This renowned Malian festival was founded on a Tamashek (Tuareg) tradition of festivals when nomadic clans meet in the cooler, dry season to celebrate their culture, music and stories from their year’s wanderings. It has, however, evolved into a widely participatory event featuring extraordinarily rich musical traditions, dance, camel races, and competitions of the Malian people as a whole. It launched in 2001 and has established itself as one of West Africa’s modern spectacle festivals.
5. Calabar Festival, Nigeria
Arguably Africa’s biggest street party, this festival lasts the better second half of December featuring unmatchable entertainment, spectacular colours, unbeatable activities and unimaginable exhibition of culture. It began in 2004 as part of activities to make Cross Rivers States, Nigeria, an African leading tourism destination. Its venues include the Millennium Park, The UJ Esuene Stadium, the Cultural Centre Complex, Marina Beach and Resort, Tinapa and the Botanical Garden all in Calabar.
6. Voodoo Festival, Benin and Togo
In Benin Republic and Togo, voodoo is a serious religion with thousands of devotees, any wonder why the voodoo festival in these countries is most vibrant and colourful. It features voodoo dolls and devotees in animal skins chanting and dancing to drumbeats, as well as horse racing on the beach, and loads of food and drink, and lots more. Make sure you are there to witness the intriguing world of the occult in full swing when next it holds. The festival holds annually around January 8-12 at Ouidah and Lome in Republic of Benin and Togo respectively.
7. Argungun Fishing Festival, Nigeria
The Argungu international fishing and cultural festival is the most widely attended in Nigeria and perhaps the oldest known festival of its kind. The festival started initially as an informal family and communal affair, and has undergone several changes and modifications. The main event is the fishing contest in the River Mata Fada. More than 30,000 fishermen had taken part in the annual Argungu fishing contest, using nets and traditional gourds made with calabashes. The festival holds in Kebbi State in north east Nigeria.
8. FESPACO, Burkina Faso
FESPACO, Africa’s largest film festival, holds biennially in Ouagadougou between February and March (The 50th edition is an 8-day event holding from 23rd February to the 2nd March 2019 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso). It is an event where the crème-de-la-crème in Africa film industries come together to display their works with only the best carting away the grand prize— Golden Stallion or L’Étalon de Yennega. FESPACO treats everyone to superb entertainment and climaxes with the presentation of the Golden Stallion or L’Étalon de Yennega—an award to which all filmmakers aspire to win, being the highest award granted to a film in Africa.
9. International Roots Festival, The Gambia
The International Roots Festival is a bi-annual historical, cultural and educational event that reminds Africans of their past and affords an opportunity to discuss the continent’s future. It is a festival that brings Africans and lovers of the continent everywhere back to their roots—Africa, to remember the African ancestors who were forced into slavery to work in foreign land some hundred years ago.
10. Saint Louis International Jazz Festival, Senegal
Music wells up in the typical Senegalese’s soul, and this renowned international music festival provides the avenue for unleashing it. The Saint Louis International Jazz Festival is an entertainment fete where global best musicians hold the audience to spellbinding performances. The festival holds annually at Saint Louis, Senegal. The 27th edition of the International Jazz Festival will hold in Saint-Louis, from April 26th to May 1st, 2019.
11. Carnival, Guinea Bissau
This carnival is more or less a national fete in Guinea Bissau, holding at different locations though the biggest events seem to be at the Bissau Carnival. It features a big parade, with allegorical cars and people floating through the streets with masks made of animal heads, and their bodies painted or dressed in colourful clothes. Dances, music, sale of foods, wine, beer among others form the highlights of this most attended festival which holds in the week preceding lent.