Selassie I used to say that Africa should speak unanimously. Shortly afterward his capital, Addis Abeba hosted 30 countries, most of which freshly independent. Exactly on May 25th 1963 African Unity Organization (AUO) was founded. Since then May reminds me of the Holy Day of the continent. Regardless of the fact that in 2002 AUO officially ceased its activity and African Unity came into existence – with new ambitions for development and democracy. Nevertheless the date of birth remains unchanged. A few weeks ago I was in the King's Castel in the opening of the posthumous exhibition of photographs taken by Ryszard Kapuściński. His photographs share light into many aspects of the continent. I really do ask myself, how is it possible that the knowledge about Africa is such restricted in the country where such a great connoisseur and expert of Africa was born?
In the 80's, due to socialistic slogans of friendship with developing countries, African Holy Day in May was strongly celebrated. During Polish People Republic period the African community consisted mainly of students; I remember concerts and other cultural events taking place in main hall of High School of Rural Economy, in the Rakowiecka street. Times have changed and unfortunately the Warsaw African Day died in an unusual way. The time has come to reunite into the worldwide fiesta of the African diaspora, to restore rainbow colors of this day. Polish Community of Africans aims to be as active as communities in New York, Paris or Berlin. But how much of Africa there is in Warsaw? Where may one find it? In Ochota, Ursynów or in the right side of Vistula?
I remember the opening of the first african restaurant in the Odyńca street in Warsaw, in the late 90-ies. It was called Lagos (as the former capital of the most populated country in Africa) and its menu flirted with nigerian cuisine. It was one of the best places in Warsaw: food was tasty, prices moderated, the service nice and portions were enough for the really hungry ones! Afterwards an ethiopian club Black Lion was opened in the Dobra Street, nearby many other clubs. I liked to go there and drink tea or coffee from the African horn. Unfortunately the lion did not survive in the Warsaw concrete jungle. Maybe he went to the nearby zoo (2 kilometers far away) on the other side of Vistula. There was the Babaloo restaurant, up to one and a half year ago in the centrum, which offered world food, especially tunisian and senegalian.
Unfortunately, currently there is no restaurant or pub offering subsaharian menu (Maghreb stands for a different culinary tradition). Since one cannot ply a good knife and fork, where to hear a good peace of music, where to find good music for ones ears, where to cast one's eyes over something beautiful?
And we have come to the point. A few months ago Center of African Culture - Motema Africa started its activity in Powiśle. The founders Urszula and Arick Onepunga- Yongo told us that „they opened a little great center. It needs only a small place to fit and we try to place in one of the turrets of the Poniatowski Bridge.” The center has a promising future, since Africa is a continent very differentiated culturally, with hundreds of nations and languages! Motema organizes courses of suahili language (conducted by native speakers) which may even become competitive toward the African Studies in Warsaw University. Erick Onpunga from Congo runs percussion workshops, there is also o female dance group directed by an african choreographer.
The greatest concentration of languages (from dawn till noon) in Warsaw is by no doubts The Stadium of the Decade, where our people try to tackle in the street trade and compete with the invincible Vietnamese traders. For these who were in Africa, it is a good occasion to have conversations in dialects (sometimes in the Mieszka dialect, i.e. in polish) and feel the climate of trade in the streets of Lagos, Dakar, Abidgan, Konakra, Bamako or Addis Abeba .. and for a while forget about the dull, rigid official prices and start bargain and chaffer
In order to feel the atmosphere of the former African horn one should visit the small gallery Etiopian Art near the Metro Świętokrzyska, which offers traditional artistic craft products, among others crosses of the coptian church – unique metal crosses made according the ancient technique of investment moulding as well as hand-carved hand or made in silver to be worn as jewellery
Another important event is the review of african films - Afrykamera which for the second time was organized in Luna Cinema by a group of enthusiasts, which underline that „the festival aims to positively influence the way Africa is seen in Poland. There is sadness and tears as well as joy and music.” The first edition was organized in the spring of past year. The initiative turned out to be very successful. Afrykamera 2007 will take place in April 12-22 in Warsaw. It's worth to watch how Africa sees itself.
Culture and sport are among the most important export domains of the continent. For now. In the beginning of 21 century in Warsaw began his career the famous Nigerian Emmanuel Olisadebe, alias Oli, nick Emsi (afterward with Polish passport). How many (important) goals did he shoot? The coach Engel would have much more to say! Currently in the Warsaw Legia perform such players as Dickison Choto from Zimbabua and Mamadou Balde from Senegal. The old-sweat Moussa Yahaya from Niger played in a few Polish clubs, also in Legia
DJ Sam (Samake) from Mali, DJ Steve from Tanzania and my humble person promote the African culture, especially music in the capital clubs and in Jazz Radio. The Day of African Unity will be a excellent occasion to remind of the role of drums in the cultures of the continent, it will be a exhibition of attractiveness and diversity. Also the modern face of the continent in an audiovisual form. Artists from different countries will present their cultures in order to enrich the cultural offer of the capital. Our African Warsaw will mark its presence in this worldwide event.
Text: Mamadou Diouf, April 2007
Translation: Rosela Ciko