Photo depicting dancers wearing traditional African garments performing on stage.

Eighth Annual Madaraka Festival Celebrates African Connections With Food, Music, and Art

by Amanda Ong

On Saturday, Aug. 13, and Sunday, Aug. 14, One Vibe Africa will host its eighth annual Madaraka Festival downtown at Pier 62. The festival brings African food, musicians, artists, creatives, and innovators for a celebration of music and civic purpose, and continues to deepen the relationship between Seattle and Africa. Tickets are available on the Madaraka Festival website.

“Madaraka means freedom,” said Lavender Toya, One Vibe Africa’s strategic development officer and co-producer of Madaraka Festival. “Madaraka day [is] when Kenya gained independence from the British, and so this started off in respect for Kenyans, in celebration for Kenyan independence, even though Simon started [Madaraka Festival] in 2014 in Seattle. But it keeps on growing and growing, and now we have other African communities involved.”

The two-day event will be held at Pier 62 along the water, and includes a lineup featuring local artists and vendors as well as others from South Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Ethiopia, and more. Artists like Rell Be Free, DJ Fredy Muks, Lace Cadence, Yirim Seck, and Yadesa Bojia will represent South Seattle. The festival will also have food from across Africa, like nyama choma, a type of Kenyan barbecue cooked on open charcoal.

Photo depicting the stage at Madaraka Festival, with a huge banner over the stage with the festival's name.
Scene of the stage from Madaraka Festival in 2015. (Photo: Jay Taylor Photography)

While the event focuses on growing the connection between Seattle’s African diaspora communities and Africa, it is also for anyone who is looking for a space where whiteness is not centered. Everyone is welcome to celebrate and promote inclusion, diversity, and respect. 

“I think freedom is a beautiful thing,” Toya said. “When it comes to freedom, when you share something with other people, or you welcome other people to share a celebration with you, they share your freedom. And there’s nothing as beautiful as someone feeling that. I feel that the Madaraka Festival provides that — when you’re around people you can relate your emotions with or your struggles with, when you’re able to celebrate that, that gives you a certain amount of freedom, feeling like you can breathe even if it’s just for a moment. … I think that’s one thing that the Madaraka Festival is special in. It’s home for everybody.”

With so much food and music, Madaraka Festival has all of the foundations to bring people together into conversation and community, and hopefully make connections with African culture. The event also brings together many entrepreneurs, allowing people to make business connections as well and grow together across countries and continents.

Photo depicting Owuor Arunga wearing sunglasses singing on the Madaraka Festival stage.
The name “Madaraka” means freedom, and is in reference to Madaraka Day, when Kenya gained independence from the British, though the festival includes many other African communities. Pictured is an artist Owuor Arunga performing at Madaraka Festival in 2015. (Photo: Bwana Morioz)

Madaraka Festival will take place on Aug. 13 and 14 from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Pier 62, 1951 Alaskan Way. The event will also be livestreamed on the One Vibe TV YouTube channel

Regular and VIP tickets are available for purchase on the Madaraka Festival website. To get involved as a sponsor, vendor, or donor, check out the Madaraka Festival website for details. To get involved in other ways, or if you are hoping to get involved for Madaraka Festival 2023, reach out through the Madaraka Festival contact page or email

Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.

📸 Featured Image: The eighth annual Madaraka Festival features live music and performances from African artists, as well as artists from Seattle’s African diaspora communities. Pictured are dancers from Kouyate Arts at Madaraka Festival in 2015. Photo courtesy of One Vibe Africa.

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