Sydney’s diverse African community will be celebrating this Saturday when the 10th annual Africultures Festival transforms Lidcombe’s Wyatt Park for the day.
When the not-for-profit Somali Welfare and Cultural Association launched the festival in 2009 around 2000, mostly African, people attended. In 2017 it attracted more than 18,000 visitors from across Sydney, and this year organisers are expecting an even bigger turnout.
“It’s a huge festival for one that’s run by just 15 community volunteers,” says marketing coordinator Sahra Tohow. “All the people involved are African, which is a huge deal, and we’re putting money back into the community. Community is everything in African culture and it’s really important to support our own.”
Forty African nations will be represented at the festival, with people sharing their culture, history, arts and – of course – food. Fifteen stalls will be offering food from every corner of the continent, from Morocco to Rwanda to South Africa.
With few African restaurants across the city, many of these dishes aren’t available anywhere else in Sydney. “You just don’t see these kinds of dishes and African food is getting harder and harder to find,” says Tohow. “Being such a large continent, the food is really varied. So I think people should be coming in with a mindset that this is going to be really interesting and something they’ve never tried before.”
West Africa will be well represented with many stalls selling food from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Liberia and Ghana. The food there tends to be richer and more carb-heavy, so look out for jollof rice (a Nigerian favourite made with rice, tomatoes, onions and chilli); fried plantains; and tomato-based stews.
From East Africa, expect spices such as cumin, cardamom and cinnamon to flavour dishes. “The ancient Spice Trail really influenced this side of the continent and makes things taste completely different,” says Tohow.
Injera bread from Ethiopia will also be on the menu. This unleavened sourdough-style flatbread is made with teff flour, recently declared a “superfood”.
One of the highlights will be a fair-trade Ethiopian coffee tent from Djebena Coffee. “Everybody knows that coffee was born in Ethiopia and this is where you can see African people sharing their history and culture in a traditional coffee ceremony,” says Tohow.
The majority of the stallholders aren’t professionals but passionate home cooks (Newtown favourite African Feeling. Many regularly cook for their local community, some catering for weddings or birthdays with up to 1,000 guests. Africultures works with the cooks, offering support and advice on things like food safety. “We really nurture the people who cook at the festival and a lot are keen to get into having their own cafe or restaurant,” says Tohow.
As well as the food, there will be two large stages with musicians, drummers, dancers and artists, an African marketplace with 45 stalls, workshops, fashion parades, a kid’s corner, and the Africultures Cup, a six-a-side soccer tournament.
Africultures is on Saturday 10 March at Wyatt Park, Lidcombe, 11am to 6pm.