The second edition of the Festival Ouaga New York took (FONY) place on September 23rd during 3 consecutive days. The FONY is a celebration of the culture from Burkina Faso. Formerly called the Republic of Upper Volta, the country was renamed Burkina Faso on 4 August 1984 by then-President Thomas Sankara.
The words “Burkina” and “Faso” both stem from different languages spoken in the country: “Burkina” comes from Mossi and means “honest” or “honest people”, while “Faso” comes from the Dioula language and means “fatherland”. The “bé” suffix added onto “Burkina” to form the demonym “Burkinabé” comes from the Fula language and means “men or women”. A new flag formed by two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and green with a yellow five-pointed star resting in the center had been adopted. The red symbolize the revolution and the green the abundance of agricultural and natural riches. The yellow star placed over the red and green stripes is the guiding light of the revolution.
Being nostalgic to their homeland, a group of friends decided to put hands together and organize the event. The idea was supposed to gather the ones who have the same cultural background and share that culture with other people in New York.
After a successful experience in 2015, the team got the idea of improving the second one. To make the FONY a useful event, they decided to donate a hand pump to a village in Burkina Faso based on public donations. On September 23, the Soirée de Gala took place in Harlem and entrance was by invitation only. To get an invitation card required a $20 minimum donation.
The invitation cards were supposed to be “picked up” in Harlem at Yentema Art Salon right next door to the Shrine Music venue. A week before the event, many people were rushing to the salon to pick up the cards. They were so excited to be able to gather as one family and celebrate the Motherland, their culture. Because New York is a big and busy city, not everyone has time and opportunity to see each other, and eat and dance with artists from their country.
The Soirée de Gala was initially set to begin from 7pm to 1am with a multitude of artists that came from all around the world. Among the list of artists was the best artist of Burkina Faso at the 2016 Kunde Awards, “Dicko Fils”. Dicko is a singer from the Fulani people which is the most widely dispersed and culturally diverse of the peoples of Africa. There was the best African artist at the 2013 “Prix decouvertes RFI”, “Smarty” who is from Burkina Faso. Then the list continues with “Nabi” who lives in Atlanta Georgia, “Shany Bess” who lives in Paris, and “Kaboré”, “Saly Sanou” and “Justin Kafando” who live in New York. The other singers include “Aly Vehrutey”, “Imilo LeChanceux”, “Greg”, “Tall Mountaga”, “Jah Verity” came all the way from Burkina Faso. “Control the Sound” a group of 11-year-old musicians from Brooklyn who play with high energy, represented the US at the Soirée de Gala.
Culture is not just limited to music; hence, the reason why they had a couple of fashion shows. Georges de Baziri GX226 and Ymar Mode who reside in Paris, were 2 of the designers who presented their collections based on the Faso Dan Fani. The Faso Dan Fani is known for being Burkina Faso‘s national cloth which means “woven cloth of the homeland” translated from the Dioula. It is 100% cotton handwoven by the women from the country.
The former president Thomas Sankara who was assassinated by his own best friend in 1987, is the one who came up with the idea that Burkinabe’s “should produce what they consume and consume what they produce”. Thomas Sankara who is commonly referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara” realized that Africans, because of the colonization tended to follow what they were dictated from the colonialist. He realized that African countries were supposed to be economically independent encouraged the people to produce their own goods and products.
A “Soirée de Gala” and celebration of culture also encompass various foods including the very well known “sagbo” (sagbo is in Mooré the most spoken language in Burkina Faso). It is a bitter pulp made from crushed, cooked millet or sorghum or corn. At the Gala, sagbo was served with 2 different sauces such as sauce gombo, made with okra and sauce “bito”, made with sorrel. “Benga” (beans) and the famous “poulet bicyclette”, which is a grilled chicken were also served at the Gala. The West African restaurant, Deligths by Mina located in Maryland also served 300 crepes.
It was a beautiful night as singers set the public on “fire”. People from everywhere were dancing at the venue. Everybody was dressed to impress. During the soiree, Mrs. Kady Zagré-Ouedraogo, CEO of Safaya International was the Patroness of the FONY 2016 personally donated 2 hand pumps. Abdoul Services international who was a sponsor donated 3 hand pumps. Mrs. Mariam Ouattara the Honorary President of the FONY 2016 donated 3 hand pumps. In total, 8 villages will have access to clean water in Burkina Faso because of the FONY 2016.
When the Soirée was “on fire”, NYPD showed up and suggested that they shut the party down as the time was exceeded. Because the party had started around 9pm instead of 7pm, it is important to address this issue in the future.
Good luck and rendez-vous to the FONY 2017!