Jack Fennimore
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African Cultural Festival Spans Widely

"Africa is so big... each region is different, the weather, the food, the clothes, the culture."

By - Jul 17th, 2019 03:20 pm
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Viola Johnson Riley is pictured with art at the African Cultural Festival. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

Viola Johnson Riley with her art at the African Cultural Festival. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

African Cultural Festival brought a little bit of Africa to Brown Deer Park last Saturday.

Vendors encircled the park as barbecue smoked on the grills and traditional dances were performed.

Artist Viola Johnson Riley appeared at the fest for her third year in a row. She told Urban Milwaukee that when she was a child, a teacher made fun of her drawing in front of the whole class. However, that just made her want to be better.

“Someone told me my art make them happy, so I was like ‘That’s what I’m going for,'” Riley said. “If you can look at my art and get happy, then I did my job.”

She loved getting to meet so many great people from so many different backgrounds and cultures. She said that it’s the diversity that brings her back every year.

When asked how people can best respect African culture, she said to “just accept it as if it was your [culture].”

“I don’t look at people’s color,” Riley said. “I just look at the person and we’re all human and we should treat each other as such. We’re all connected.”

You can see Riley’s art here.

Monica Ashery sells authentic outfits straight out of her birth country of Tanzania. She started the business after having a kidney transplant two years ago and searching for something to give her some security and a more flexible work schedule. She sells out of the basement of her home while sometimes setting up a booth at events like this.

She wants to open up her own space for her clothes in the future so people can browse and buy while seeing a window into Tanzanian culture.

“It not just about selling clothes, it’s also educating people,” she said.

Ashery appreciates the diversity of the fest too.

“Africa is so big… each region is different, the weather, the food, the clothes, the culture, everything is different. So when you come here, you get to experience the varieties and the rich diversity of Africa.”

When asked how people can best respect African culture, she said to just be a part of it.

“Be involved and get out of the box and learn more about Africa,” she said.

Check out all the fun in our photos.

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