African-Slovak Union at Mareena Festival – September 2020
Despite the worsening Covid-19 situation in Bratislava, Mareena Festival 2020 took place this Saturday. With temperature check for the organizers, sanitizers, masks and number of visitors restricted to 60 at a time, one would think the atmosphere would be somewhat uneasy, but guess what? It was not!
African-Slovak union was there from the beginning at 13:00 until the end at 21:00!
As Mareena says, it was „The whole world in one place!“ Visitors, many locals and many foreigners as well, had a chance to experience something extraordinary. The music from DJ Ned made people dive into the energetic notes of Africa, Middle East and the Carribean, while many of them used the opportunity to taste foods, that are not typical for Slovakia at all. There was Sulaiman from Afghanistan with his palaw (spicy rice with raising and meat), Ali with his Kenyan Madondo (beans in tomato and coconut sause) or Cameroonian N´Dole (spinach with shrimps and plaintains), as well as Shakriyeh from Khairi (mant in yougurt sauce) or Irani Khoresht (meat stew with lentils) from Hamid. In fact, all dishes were the hit and just a few hours after the Festival opened its gates, they were sold out. Those smart ones used the possibility to order „take away“, which was a very nice idea curbing the Corona Impact on the event. It really was encouraging to see that poeple, who in the meantime feel local, did not hesitate and offered the best of their cuisine to the visitors while casually chit-chatting about all things big and small with a wide smile on their face. This is exactly the atmosphere and cultural exchange we as ASU believe in!
Once the tummy was full, some of us did not resist a good cup of coffee with cardamom or mango lassi ice cream, which was, to be honest, very much needed on such a hot and exciting day. The famous Austria-based musician Salah Ammo came all the way from Vienna to perform on his Bouzouk and offered the beauty of oriental melodies mixed with occidental music elements. He is a vivid example of multiculturality and will to build bridges between different cultures. After that, it was time to move again and so the right thing to do was to dance. The Matata Dancers, Kenyan young men studying in Slovak Universities as a result of extraordinary relationships between Slovakia and Kenya, unleashed a wave of energy upon the spectators, many of which did not hesitate and learnt a step or two from them in their funky choreography. At this point, there were queues at the entrance and some people were even watching over the fence, because the atmosphere was just too tempting to miss out on!
When the heat started vanishing, we got heated back up by the Chilean-Argentinian duo, whose name Helado infinito (neverending ice cream) told us just what we were going to get. An exiciting mixture of styles, evolved just in front of our eyes – well, ears – and with every turn we got a different flavor. It definitely reflected the duo´s personality – their love for music, their love for travelling and backpacking with their music on their backs. I really like how they turned their inspiration and offered it to the public with all its force – and the public received it with all the unexpected twists and variations without prejudice, just like it should be.
Next, the stage belonged to Shrey and his project “NeViem po Slovensky”. He addressed stereotypes about foreigners that rule in the Slovak society and also took it from the other angle – described tasting of Slovak foods by people, who come from a very different culinary ambiance. By that time, people mingled among themselves, randomly standing at the tables in the garden and finding themselves next to people they did not know. It was really interesting to watch their faces and their reactions to Shrey´s performance. In many cases it provoked laughter, experience exchange between strangers and it was noticeable that many of us stopped to think about certain things maybe for the first time.
Last but not least, Nasi was on, an Iranian-almost Slovak lady who has been living here for almost 10 years. She found herself in the stand-up performances a few years ago and since then, she has been addressing the immigrant topic tirelessly. It was really astonishing and amazing at the same time, how certain situations that immigrants go through, can make you laugh when told on stage, but at the same time, when you get to think about how much different such situations actually might be in the real life, it is a really powerful tool of building bridges between Slovaks and the expats living here.
And that is exactly why Mareena Festival is such a great project and we are really proud to have had our few minutes on the stage also, where we introduced our platform, our goals and our values, which coincide so much with the main idea of this event and with the beliefs of people who took part in it. Beside that, we made a few really great connections and got even more motivated to pursue our mission, because people do recognize it´s worth and value! We promise that next year you will hear a lot more from us!