Fun-packed festival celebrates the cultural heritage of Portsmouth's African-Caribbean community

A UNIVERSITY building was transformed into a cauldron of colour and culture as a festival was thrown to celebrate the city’s African-Caribbean community.

Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 1:35 pm
Updated Sunday, 6th October 2019, 6:22 pm
Emeka Nwagboso dancing at the African-Caribbean Fusion Festival at the University of Portsmouth's Eldon building. Picture: Vernon Nash (051019-004)

It drew hundreds to the University of Portsmouth’s Eldon building in Middle Street on Saturday, with live music, dance and a pop-up market with homemade treats and hand-crafted garments.

For Prescilla Muyatwa the day was an opportunity to spread the word about her good cause, the Noah Mapalo Help Centre.

The Portsmouth-based initiative hosts events to raise money and awareness for communities facing poverty in Zambia.

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Yemisi Olaiya with her Semande fashion brand, at the African-Caribbean Fusion Festival at the University of Portsmouth's Eldon building Picture: Vernon Nash (051019-005)

Her stall staged a raffle and sold colourful bangles made from recycled plastic bottles by Zambian girls, aged 12 and 13.

‘We’re going to give the girls the money from the bangles because we want to empower them,’ the 44-year-old said.

‘This is the best event like this I’ve ever seen in Portsmouth because it’s bringing people from so many different countries and cultures together as one. I really hope it’s going to continue.’

Another cause greeting crowds was the newly-established Portsmouth Cameroonians Association, which has a mission to tackle isolation and embed itself in the Portsmouth community.

Towera Zimuto, Priscilla Muyatwa, Ummi Akinpelu and Carol Hazikyriako with their handmade bangles and honey at a stall supporting the Noah Mapalo Help Centre, at the African-Caribbean Fusion Festival at the University of Portsmouth's Eldon building Picture: Vernon Nash (051019-007)

Its president Sylvain Yuyop hailed the festival’s inclusivity.

‘Sometimes you can feel lonely, like it’s just you,’ the 39-year-old said.

‘But coming here today makes you realise you’re not alone and there are other communities just like yours.

‘We’re sharing our common culture and it’s brilliant.’

Ore Olayemi serving food from Joled Catering Service at the African-Caribbean Fusion Festival at the University of Portsmouth's Eldon building. Picture: Vernon Nash (051019-008)

While live shows drew an audience, crowds also gathered as talented cooks went head-to-head in a Jollof rice competition.

The popular West African dish often features Basmati rice with tomatoes or chillies, other vegetables and meat, including chicken.

This and other quirks of the festival, said Lola Yomi-Baker of organisers the Portsmouth Black History Committee, helped coax African-Caribbean residents in Portsmouth to celebrate the intricacies that make their cultures special.

‘This has encouraged people to come out, not be shy and say “hey, here I am and this is what my people are about.”

Michelle Mendy, 5, has her face painted by Irene Gandara Moral from 'In Your Face' at the African-Caribbean Fusion Festival at the University of Portsmouth's Eldon building Picture: Vernon Nash (051019-010)

‘We’re celebrating our differences, but we’re also celebrating what brings us together and makes us unique.

‘When people think about black culture in the UK they think very singularly, but take a walk around here and they’ll see that’s far from the truth.’

Artist Christina Cotterell and cushion maker Lydia Bartlett at the African-Caribbean Fusion Festival at the University of Portsmouth's Eldon building. Picture: Vernon Nash (051019-011)
Portrait photographer Olufemi Olaiya at the African-Caribbean Fusion Festival at the University of Portsmouth's Eldon building. Picture: Vernon Nash (051019-012)