Enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Africa. And maybe some of its soul.
Umoja Festival Culture
The Umoja Festival entertainment is a unique combination of contemporary and ancient art forms. In African tradition, permission from the elders of the village is sought because of their wisdom, knowledge and experience. The Umoja Festival has always observed this tradition in seeking permission to begin the festival from the elders of the Portsmouth community.
Nationally acclaimed musical guests perform jazz, reggae, gospel, and rhythm and blues. Children’s area contains games, crafts, and workshops with origins in several African countries. The Festival’s closing activity features a gospel jubilee of musical talents from throughout Hampton Roads.
Ethnic foods, a marketplace of sculptures, paintings, prints, baskets, quilts and other assorted hand-crafted wares contribute to the ambiance of the Festival.
Umoja Festival Community
The Red Cross, Sickle Cell Anemia, PRIDE in Parenting and other social service organizations set-up exhibits to educate Festival participants about programs available in the community.
The Umoja Festival links the citizenry of Portsmouth to the continent of Africa by a common thread of rhythm, culture and values, and shares this experience with thousands of Festival participants from diverse communities across the nation, thus providing true to the Festival’s theme of unity in the family, community, and nation. The Umoja Festival is a superb example of a community’s dedication and commitment to insuring an understanding of cultural diversity through a Festival “representing” the Kiswahili word UMOJA . . . UNITY in the family, community and the nation.
Umoja Festival History
In 1991, the City Council of Portsmouth, Virginia affirmed its commitment to understanding cultural diversity. It was most appropriate that the City of Portsmouth selected the Kiswahili word UMOJA as the name of its African-American Festival. Umoja, a Kiswahili word meaning unity, is the first principal of Kwanzaa, an African-American cultural holiday celebrated from December 26th through January 1st. This principal emulates unity in the family, community and nation. Umoja Processional – “Drums of Africa” Group – The UMOJA Festival opens with a traditional African drum call sending polyrhythms through the air, a ceremonial processional and the blessing of the elders, are all facets of ancient tribal cultures, customs and traditions. For two and one-half days, the beautiful waterfront of Portsmouth is transformed into an image of its Sister City Eldoret, Kenya.
The Festival begins with permission from the elders: In African tradition, permission from the elders of the village is often sought because of their wisdom, knowledge and experience. The Umoja Festival has always observed this tradition in seeking permission from the elders of the Portsmouth community.
Meet the 2017 Elders