The sound of djembe and dunun drums rang throughout the Hayti Heritage Center on Saturday.
To Pearl Forbes of Raleigh, the familiar echo of the instruments brought back memories of what she had to leave behind in the wake of the first Liberian civil war.
A native of Liberia, Forbes moved to Raleigh in 1996 and has been observing Kwanzaa, an annual celebration of African heritage, ever since. Kwanzaa, which was created in 1965, runs from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1 every year, and Saturday’s event in Durham kicked off the weeklong celebration with friends, family, dancing and music.
“It’s beautiful,” Forbes said. “It reminds me of home in Africa. It is a way to celebrate my culture ... Just the drumming and the music, it reminds me of home.”
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The daylong event, hosted by the Hayti Heritage Center and Shabutaso Inc., featured a candle lighting ceremony and a marketplace where artwork, clothing, food and crafts were sold, as well as a children’s village with workshops, including one teaching chess.
Aya Shabu, an event coordinator, began celebrating Kwanzaa after she moved to North Carolina from Massachusetts in 2003 to be a touring dancer with the African American Dance Ensemble.
“It’s my favorite time of the year in Durham because, as a professional performer, I have the opportunity to perform in my community,” she said.
Kwanzaa reinforces seven principles, including self-determination, creativity and faith, and each day is dedicated to one of those principles. “(The holiday) is a reminder that we can celebrate the principles of Kwanzaa every day of the year,” she said, pointing to T-shirts that said “Kwanzaa 24/7/365.” “That’s what I practice or try to practice.”
The value emphasized Saturday was unity, and dozens of adults and children came together to commemorate the day.
“(Kwanzaa means) unity, community, sharing with everyone and learning from each other,” Durham resident Erica King said.
Drum and dance workshops
Children learned traditional dance and music by participating in workshops taught by local instructors.
Teli Shabu, a percussionist and Aya Shabu’s husband, showed a group of 3- to 8-year-olds, including his 5-year-old daughter Funmi, how to play dunun drums first by striking the center of the instrument twice and the rim three times.
Funmi had a huge grin on her face, confidently striking the drum in time with the other students as her father taught the class. After the lesson, the children moved to another room to learn a traditional African dance.
“She loves dancing. She loves percussion,” Shabu said of his daughter. “Whenever we jam at the house, she comes in.”
The event helped American-born adults and children become more immersed in African heritage.
Durham resident Justice Starr said she began celebrating Kwanzaa years ago when she was introduced to it by friends. Since then, she has continued to observe Kwanzaa with family.
“It is an alternative to celebrate family and togetherness and unity,” she said. “I like it because it gives us a reason to get together.”
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon
Other Kwanzaa events
Sunday: Kwanzaa Celebration 3-6 p.m. at the Fruits of Labor World Cultural Center at 4200 Lake Ridge Drive, Raleigh
Tuesday: 21st annual Kwanzaa Celebration at 11 a.m. at the Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary
Wednesday: A Community Celebration 5:30-8 p.m. at 401 N. Driver St., Durham
Friday: Kwanzaafest 2016 10 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Durham Armory at 220 Foster St., Durham