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Memories of the Festival

Ceremonia de apertura del QAFF 2022 by Yeison Venté

A loving offering to Eleguá and the ancestors

The coconut, the candle, the herbs, the flowers, the honey and the tobacco, conversed placidly in the centre of the human circle. In that moment, sublime to the extreme, love and gratitude fluttered like butterflies in the hearts of those who formed it. At the same time, they breathed in the wisdom that emanated from the lips of Diego Madrid Portocarrero. Absolute silence in the auditorium of the MIA School. Emotions on the surface. Skins bristling, hearts beating strongly. An intrinsic and passionate journey. It was magic what was happening at the opening of the 4th edition of the Quibdó Africa Film Festival. Suddenly, the coconut was lifted from the ground and raised as an offering. Absorbed in his journey, tobacco in his right hand, eyes closed and soul steeped in ancestral heritage, Madrid expressed words that did not belong to him. They came from a spirit alien to the understanding of mortals.

- "That is the voice of the African men and women who came to this continent and discovered their inner power to escape their masters and emancipate themselves," said one of the assistants, breaking the muted symphony that reigned in the room.

The phrases coalesced a shuddering discourse, worthy of being kept in a privileged corner of the soul. In the air, a perfume never smelled by any nose in Chocó. What was happening was inexplicable and marvellous at the same time.

The sacred and unbreakable bond

Sudden silence on the lips of Madrid. The lit candle was a symbol of life and resistance. In the depths of its flame, the sacred and unbreakable bond of the diaspora dwelled. A bond that united the destinies of Africa and the Colombian Pacific.

The ritual was dedicated to the orishas, deities in the West African Yoruba religion. It was a tribute to Eleguá, the little giant of the multi-ethnic Osha cult, master of the ways and destiny, and a tribute to the ancestors who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their own.

Characters such as Benkos Biohó and the black Casilda constituted an invaluable heritage for Afro-descendants from the Pacific and other regions of the country.

It was an obligation for Willy Massamba, director of the Festival, to remember them and pay tribute to them.

- "We are children of Africa. Our ancestors bequeathed us their intelligence, their cunning, their courage and their determination to change the course of our social and political history. social and political history. We cannot forget that. If we do, we will renounce our ancestral roots," said another of those present. "

Within the circle, a kind of soundless but powerful musicality could be heard. Suddenly, Madrid Portocarrero broke the silent harmony and raised a prayer to his precious deities and his precious spirits.

Harmony for Memory, Resistance and Peace

Herbs, flowers and honey were offered. The love within the circle was indescribable in words. You had to be there to feel and breathe it. Madrid Portocarrero smoked his tobacco and exhaled the smoke into each of the bodies near him.

As he rotated and performed one of the high moments of the ritual, he asked the Orishas, Eleguá, and the spirits of the ancestors to open the paths to live harmoniously in the region.

The tobacco smoke was the echo of Madrid's loving plea: Harmony to preserve the historical memory of the people, harmony to find peace in the territories and harmony to create spaces of resistance.

Universal energy in the corners of the venue. The spectators were moved by what they were seeing. One of them, an elderly man, sobbed as Madrid Portocarrero engaged in spiritual dialogue.

- "Our ancestors are here. We are not alone in the school auditorium. You can feel their presence," said a woman sitting in the fourth row.

On the stage, the bodies close to Madrid were dressed in a haven. There was no other word to define the sensation reflected on their faces. Filmmakers such as Ousmane Sembène, Souleymane Cissé and Djibril Diop would have loved to have been there.

Mambéty; or the great Sarah Maldoror, pioneer of African cinema, to have a camera in their hands, to capture such a transcendental moment and to strengthen ties with the Afro-descendant people of Quibdó.

If the words of the woman sitting in the fourth row were true, the spirits of Benkos Biohó and Black Casilda were most likely standing to Madrid's right. To her left, probably, the spirits of Tomás Pérez, who fought on the Atrato River leading a platoon of soldiers.

Atrato leading a platoon of black maroons; and those of Miguel Buch and Miguel Montalvo, blacks shot in Bogotá in 1816.

If so, wonderful things would happen in Chocó from that Monday 12 September 2022.

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