It started 24 years ago with an overhead projector and a handful of dedicated volunteers; now AfroQuiz has evolved into a popular annual event that kids throughout the city eagerly await.
“Attendance has been going up—it’s easy to keep the same kids, because once you get a kid at eight or nine years old and they’re interested in it, they just develop,” Siyani Nsaliwa says.
Nsaliwa is the chairperson for the Council of Canadians of African & Caribbean Heritage (CCACH), which organizes AfroQuiz each year. An annual Jeopardy-style quiz competition for both children and adults, AfroQuiz aims to foster a sense of pride in and deeper understanding of the rich history of people of African descent in Canada and around the world.
Participants register for the competition in one of five age categories, from under nine years old to post-secondary (adult). In addition to bragging rights, there are prizes for the winners. This year’s theme is black literature; accordingly, the CCACH has asked some local authors to participate, including Tololwa Mollel. Mollel was chosen as the featured author for the under-nine age range as he has published over 20 books, many of which were written for children. His stories often centre on storytelling and the nature of identity and heritage.
“I’m lucky that I came to Canada older. As a young man from Tanzania, I already knew the language—the national language Bantu Swahili—and I’d grown up there; so I was pretty much rooted,” Mollel says. “But a lot of kids don’t really get exposed to all that. … The mainstream Canadian history is well known by the Canadian people whose parents have been here, who have been rooted here for centuries. They know and it’s taken for granted. But for people who came from elsewhere, it’s hard—yes they belong here, but they also belong somewhere else, and it’s good for them to know that dual heritage.”
AfroQuiz has been slowly evolving over the past two decades. A few years ago, the CCACH partnered with Prince Charles School, which resulted in that school starting its own version of the competition based on Aboriginal history and heritage. Nsaliwa notes that the CCACH has been considering pitching the AfroQuiz concept to schools in order to fill in the gaps in Alberta’s public school curriculum.
Mollel agrees that AfroQuiz offers an accessible and fun way to gain valuable insight into African culture, and hopes that it continues to gain momentum.
“I really tip my hat off to the people who are organizing this, year after year after year,” Mollel says. “Because these are really small steps. Sometimes people don’t really appreciate the small steps that are made and they want the big revolutionary steps, and sometimes that is not possible. I’m really happy that they are content with making small contributions like this—which are big.”
AfroQuiz takes place this Saturday, February 27, at 1 pm at the Stanley Milner Library. Participants can access study materials and register on the CCACH website: ccach.org/afroquiz/