More than 20,000 people attended the Africultures Festival on Sunday, making it the biggest yet in the event’s 15-year history.
Organiser Naumi Benjamia said it was exciting to see how much the festival had grown.
“There’s definitely been a growth in the African Australian population, but I also think there are more people from the broader community taking an interest in our cultures,” she said.
The annual one-day event, held at Sydney Olympic Park and celebrates the rich diversity of African cultures in Sydney, is Australia’s largest African festival.
It began as a small community event in Auburn 15 years ago but moved to Olympic Park last year after attendance numbers soared.
Addressing the crowd, Parramatta Lord Mayor Sameer Pandey said he was excited to see how many people had decided to take part in the festival this year.
“We are so proud of the contributions that African Australians make to our community,” he said in his opening speech. “Let us celebrate these contributions here today and continue to celebrate the outstanding work of this diverse community.”
Fifty-two African countries were represented in a variety of cultural workshops, market stalls and live music performances. The festival’s Nile Food Court drew crowds along the Olympic Boulevard, offering national specialities such as Nigerian jollof rice, Ethiopian coffee and Kenyan mandazi doughnuts.
Chapatis for Charity was one of the most popular food stalls. The stall served East African chapati, a traditional flatbread with spicy vegetables and meat, to raise money for schools in Uganda.
Jen Leonards from Sydney’s Inner West stood in line at the stall for more than 30 minutes to order her food, but said the wait was worthwhile. She came to the festival to learn more about African cultures in Sydney and said the event was bigger than she expected.
“The whole festival has been eye-opening,” Leonards said. “There’s so much more I want to see and so many things I still want to try!”
The African Market Place was also bustling with people. More than 40 stalls filled Cathy Freeman Park, showcasing colourful jewellery, homewares and fashion from across the African continent.
African Unique Accessories has been a part of the festival since 2008. The store sells hand-made head wraps, clothing and other accessories that use the traditional batik printing method which combines melted wax with colourful dye.
“Since the festival first started, this has probably been the most popular stall,” said Benjamia. “People just love the colours!”
The organiser also said the live music performances were hugely successful. This year, the festival showcased its largest number of musical acts with 15 performances throughout the day.
Gold Coast band Mad Collective Connection (MCC) closed the festival with a set of original songs from their latest album, Reggae Love.
Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Kilimanjaro main stage to dance and sing.
“This is what the festival is about”, said Benjamia. “Coming together, meeting new people and just having fun!”