The Washington West African Center (WAWAC) is holding their first ever Sounds of Africa Festival at the Everett Community College campus in downtown Everett on Friday, August 4th and Saturday, August 5th.

Established in 2017, WAWAC’s mission is to connect West Africans in Washington state with local resources, promote West African culture, inform, and educate West Africans to discover their potentials. 

Their mission statement goes on to emphasize the importance of using information technologies and the arts for the attainment and discovery of talents.

Founder and Executive Director, Pa Ousman Joof, started WAWAC after experiencing his own hardships and challenges after moving to the United States from Gambia. From Georgia, to South Carolina, to Alaska and now Everett, Washington Joof worked 2 to 3 jobs at a time, went to school, raised a family, and dealt with the challenges of being an undocumented immigrant. Now a US citizen, Joof wanted to provide a place with resources for those who find themselves in a similar position. 

“All services we provide are based on community needs,” Joof said. “If they need anything, they come to us. If we don’t have it, we’ll find it.”

Over the years, WAWAC has held several smaller scale community events, but the dream for something bigger has been on the backburner ever since the COVID pandemic shut down. Now that life has somewhat returned to normal, Joof wants to rekindle the vision of bringing the community together through Africa with the idea he’s had the longest.

The inaugural “Sounds of Africa Festival” will allow attendees the invaluable opportunity to explore traditional African cuisines, fashion, languages, and music in a gathering presented by Africans themselves.

According to the event website, on Friday, August 4th, there will be a series of free workshops on traditional African musical instruments, including the Kora, Balafon, Djembe, Sabarr and African Dance. These workshops will be facilitated by seasoned and professional West African instrumentalists, musicians, and dancers from around the world. Keynote speakers such as Snohomish County Executive Dave Sommers will be in attendance as well.

On Saturday, August 5th there will be a fashion show to showcase African clothing, a dance competition, and performances by various artists, including the renowned international singer and songwriter Pa Omar Jack from The Gambia, the Gansango West African Dance Group, the Kouyate Twins, The Selasi I Soldiers Band and Pa Bobo Jobarteh

“Our goal is to bring the community together,” said Joof. “The world is currently toxic. We are supposed to walk together, cherish each other, not distancing ourselves from each other.”

The Sounds of Africa Festival is still in need of extra volunteers. Those interested can reach out to WAWAC at the phone number 253-235-2132 or the email address [email protected].

For more info on the festival itself, click here to be taken to their Eventbrite page.