International Festival of Holland celebrates community’s diversity

You can travel the world without even packing a suitcase at the 2022 International Festival of Holland.

The free, family-friendly festival returns to the Holland Civic Center Place on Saturday, Oct. 1, from 3-9 p.m.

In addition to musical acts from around the world, the festival will feature a Children’s Fiesta with hands-on art activities by CultureWorks, a Mercado (marketplace) with international food and goods, a display of more than 100 national flags, and a World Arena soccer event for middle school athletes. 

“Holland’s International Festival is a celebration of the rich diversity of the people of Holland. It is an opportunity to learn about each other, our cultures, our traditions, our common values, and the bright future we share together,” says Mayor Nathan Bocks. “It is an opportunity to grow closer as a community. Holland’s International Festival is truly a celebration of the value of everyone who calls Holland home.”

Variety of events, entertainment

The Haworth World Arena Soccer Scrimmage kicks off the festivities at 10 a.m. at the city’s Riverview Field, at the corner of 6th Street and College Avenue.

The afternoon program will open at the Holland Civic Center at 3 p.m. with a community welcome and presentation by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. The main stage performance schedule includes:

3-3:30 p.m. – Welcome, Mayor Nathan Bocks
3:30-4 p.m. –  Pokagon Band of Potawatomi
4:30-5:15 p.m. – Seffarine
5:45-6:30 p.m. – Samuel Nalangira
7:00-7:45 p.m. – Changüí Majadero
8:15-9 p.m. – Natu Camara

Families are invited to Gentex’s Children’s Passport to the World in the Market View space, where youths will be able to get their passports stamped as they participate in hands-on art stations by CultureWorks. These activities for all ages will highlight art and design traditions from around the world. 

The Festival Mercado will offer international food and goods for purchase. 

“The Festival Mercado is an opportunity for festival-goers to eat and shop their way around the world,” says Esther Fifelski, manager of the City’s Human Relations Department, which facilitates the work of the International Relations Commission (IRC). “In addition, community organizations will also be on hand to share information about the work they do internationally.” 

International sounds

Natu Camara

The festival headliner is Natu Camara, one of the brightest stars coming out of the West African nation of Guinea, who is now based in New York City. Singing in five languages, Camara weaves beautiful musical tapestries of her beloved homeland and uses her songs to build cultural bridges and to share her commitment to the education and empowerment of women and girls. 

Her 2018 solo album, “Dimedi,” which means child in her native language of Susu, underscores the significance of children having positive role models. Camara has performed her blend of Afro-rock, pop, and soul for audiences at globalFEST, the World Music Institute, and hundreds of locations across the U.S. and around the world.

“Beautiful people of Holland, get your comfortable shoes on. We are going to sing and dance and celebrate each other,” Camara says.

Changui Majadero

The adventurous ensemble Changüí Majadero is reintroducing Cuban Changüí to a new generation. Before the musical styles of Son Cubano and Salsa, there was Changüí. Changüí is to Cuban and Latin American music what the blues and early jazz are to the music of the United States. 

Changüí Majadero has played their modern take on changüí at Lincoln Center, SF Jazz, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Dodger Stadium.

Moroccan singer Lamiae Naki and her ensemble Seffarine 

Internationally acclaimed Moroccan singer Lamiae Naki and her ensemble Seffarine 
create fresh, innovative works that channel Arabic and Andalusian music, Persian classical, jazz, and Spanish flamenco. Seffarine has performed around the world, winning over audiences from Indonesia to Spain to rural Montana. 

Its debut album, “De Fez a Jerez,” received international acclaim and placed in the Transglobal World Music Chart's top 20 world music releases.

Samuel Nalangira is a high-energy, multi-talented musician/songwriter/choreographer from Kampala, Uganda. Nalangira blends the low-tech of traditional Ugandan instruments with the high-tech world of electronic looping devices, allowing him to record his own background music for his “one-man band” performances. Nalangira has toured across Europe, the United States, Canada, and Asia performing and leading workshops in schools, universities and festivals.

“We are thrilled to be able to host such talented, renowned, international musicians and performers,” says Alissa Wilson, IRC chair. “What a great way to introduce the West Michigan community to the global stage and connect us to the wider world.” 

Community sponsors

The event is hosted by the Holland IRC and the International Festival of Holland advisory board, with support from local business sponsors, which include Gentex Corp., the Holland Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Flagstar Foundation, LG Energy Solutions Michigan, Haworth Helps, Quincy Street Inc., the Brooks Family Community Fund, the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of Realtors, Holland Hospital, Midwest Communications WHTC 1450 AM and 99.7 FM & Van 92.7, Heinz, Kenowa Industries, Hope College, and Outfront Media.

The Holland IRC was created in 1993 to build and maintain meaningful relationships between the people of Holland and the wider world through cultural,  educational, and professional contact. IRC programs and events include the International Festival of Holland, sister-city relationships with Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico, the annual Reel Time international film series, World Affairs Council programming, and various community programs.  

This year’s festival poster, designed by graphic artist Molly Benson, overlays a local element, Big Red Lighthouse, on the award-winning artwork created by Delaney Ann Prins for the original festival poster in 2019. 

Prins describes how rhythms of color and design in the globe represent the weaving together of the world. 

“The markings and symbols are universal from the caveman to modern graffiti,” she says. “The tulip is Persian in origin and used in Arabic art, then migrated to the Netherlands. The crane is a symbol of peace in China and Japan, the elephant is found in Indian and African art. Roses as a design element can be found in Russia, Bulgaria, Eastern Europe, Mexico, and Ecuador.”

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.