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2007 09 06
AfriVillage Fest 2007

Towards the end of August I checked out the First Annual AfriVillage Fest, which took place in what is officially known as Bloorcourt Village, that less trendy strip of Bloor that’s just shy of some better known hoods: West of Little Korea, North of Dufferin Grove Park and the happening Ossington strip. Unofficially, it is known as the African Village. Take a stroll along Bloor St between Montrose and Dufferin, and the reason for this soon becomes clear. This area has the highest concentration of African businesses in all of downtown Toronto; clothing, hair care, home décor, even the travel biz is represented. And at the risk of sounding like a boutique multiculturalist, of particular note are the African restaurants which offer healthy and delicious food at astonishingly low prices. Ethiopian restos dominate; try The Queen of Sheba, Lalibela and Nazareth for slow cooked and flavourful top notch veggie and carnivorous grub sopped up with spongy injera. The Life Café offers an excellent Ethopian breakfast (be warned: Ethopian coffee is not for the faint hearted) and spots like Cleopatra’s offer well executed Egyptian fare.


As soon as I entered the festival area at Bloor and Ossington I was struck my two things. First, the festival was remarkably well attended for its inaugural year. Second, the festival attendees were particularly friendly and relaxed.

As I wandered through the packed streets fingering wooden bracelets and admiring giant balls of shea butter, I couldn’t resist a stop at the stall for Toronto-based hatters Big It Up. Striking up a conversation with a personable Big It Up staff member, we both immediately agreed that the festival was a definite success, with positive energy to spare. He had some thoughts on which elements contributed to the festival’s success.

First, blocking off a major street like Bloor (even for only four blocks from Ossington to Crawford) allows people to experience the space in a much slower and more meaningful way. That store window you’re always too busy to stop and check out? That beautiful tree that you’ve often wanted to stroke the bark of? That restaurant you’ve always meant to try? All of these things suddenly become possible when the streets are flooded with people instead of cars. Something else happens too: people start smiling at each other. I saw more smiles in that four blocks than I had all week. Second, he noted that word of mouth is what really got this festival off the ground. One Ethiopian business owner got the ball rolling, word spread, people organized, and the festival was born in true community style.


Another reason people were smiling? I defy you to listen to upbeat Ethiopian pop music and resist the urge to dance. Few people that I saw successfully resisted that urge. Instead of the usual shapeless mass of dancing people by the outdoor stage, one large group of people were dancing in a circular fashion. As for the dancers on stage, beautiful traditional clothing and harvest themes were used to great effect. And when the dancing was done, there was mouth watering streetside pan-African cuisine for refueling, and fashion shows featuring colour drenched fabrics to watch.


Street festival season isn’t quite done yet……be sure to check out the Junction Arts Festival which runs from Sept. 6th to 9th.


All images by Liza Badaloo
Liza Badaloo is a proud resident of Bloorcourt Village.
[email this story] Posted by Liza Badaloo on 09/06 at 02:33 AM

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