Every visitor to this month’s Kuumba festival should come away with something from African-American culture.
“We mean to give everyone a little slice of the true African heritage,” said Bettie McNair, Kuumba chairperson. “We’re bringing in entertainers who are authentic entertainers - those who have been born and raised in Africa and know more about the lifestyle there than someone who may be mimicking what they see.”
The event, in its 22nd year, will be held from 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 at Market Park in Laurinburg.
Included among the schedule are storytellers, exhibitions of African drumming and dance, African fashions showcased by local residents, and the Miss Kuumba celebration. The Miss Kuumba pageant will be held at 7 p.m. the day before at North Laurinburg Elementary School.
Following the opening remarks, Rev. Darrel Gibson of Nazareth Missionary Baptist Church will lead a libation ceremony.
“It’s an African celebration that’s normally tied in with Kwanzaa,” Gibson said. “The libation is normally done as an opening ceremony because, before beginning new celebrations and new ceremonies, it’s honorable to give respect to those who have passed on. It’s a memorial tribute to those who have been part of this community.”
The Kuumba Festival, named after a word meaning “creativity” in Swahili, was founded in the spirit of bringing an authentic African experience to Scotland County.
“We draw from people who have lived in Africa all of their lives and are now here in America,” McNair said. “We also bring in entertainers from other areas in the USA that people cannot normally afford to attend: blues, jazz, African dancing, African drumming, fashion shows with authentic African outfits.”
The fashion show will feature outfits that have been brought back from Africa on locals’ travels there, and Wo’se Dance Theatre of Charleston will perform in African dancing and drumming. The theatre’s founder, Queen Atterberry, trained in African dance at Les Ballets Africains in the West African nation of Guinea.
Among the event’s local performers will be Elite Dance Academy and the Nazareth Church Choir. Activities for children, like making African-themed arts and crafts, will also be available.
Attendees at the Kumba Festival have averaged around 4,000 in recent years. The event and many of its activities are free to all.
“A lot of people say that they will never ever miss Kuumba - I’ve never missed Kuumba since it started because it’s a chance to see old classmates, and a lot of people from out of town come back to town for Kuumba,” McNair said. “A lot of our younger people go off to college and establish themselves in other areas and they always come back for Kuumba.”