Jamaican singers Sizzla Kalonji and Mutabaruka and U.S. singer
Erykah Badu are among the artists scheduled to rock the stage at the 11th edition of Gambia’s International Roots Homecoming Festival, which began Friday and runs through Saturday.
Organized by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the festival, which began in 2003, will attract more than 200 participants across the world.
The festival, with the theme “celebrating unity through culture,” serves as a connecting point for Africans and those in the Diaspora.
It is also a time in which people reflect on the agony slaves went through during the slave trade.
During the trade, millions of Africans were uprooted from their home and taken to the “new world” via the Atlantic Ocean. Many never made it to the plantation sites of the so-called new world, as they either perished on the ship or were thrown overboard into the wild ocean to die, for one reason or another.
The roots programs are designed to enlighten people culturally about the historic significance “Gambia bears, and the rich ethical cultures that prevail in the country, which will be introduced to ‘pilgrims’ as they integrate with various tribal groups in the villages throughout several regions in the country,” according to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
Embracing Gambian culture, customs, values, history and traditions, strengthens and reaffirms one’s faith in African cultural heritage, the ministry added.
Activities at this year’s event include an African king and queen banquet, a carnival procession of masquerades and cultural groups, and a masquerade ball.
There will also be a “Futampaf” (rites of passage) in Kanilai village, a visit to Kunta Kinteh Island (James Island) and other sites of historic importance, including the slavery museum.
Update: According to Erykah Badu’s publicity team, the R&B singer will not be at the Roots Festival. The Chamber Group who represents Badu issued the following statement:
“Despite recent media reports that indicated otherwise, recording artist Erykah Badu is not booked to participate in the 11th Edition of the Roots Homecoming Festival in Gambia. Event organizers mistakenly believed Ms. Badu to be confirmed due to false representation and claims from a third party unaffiliated with Ms. Badu and her management. All marketing and advertising materials promoting the festival featuring her likeness were done without Ms. Badu’s knowledge or consent.”