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Philadelphia’s Odunde Festival Highlights the Energy and Style of the African Diaspora

Sunday marked the renowned 41st Odunde Festival in Philadelphia, Pa.

Established in 1975 by Lois Fernandez, with only a $100 grant, it’s grown into one of the biggest African street festivals in the U.S., with 500,000 festival-goers covering more than 12 city blocks, and attracting hundreds of vendors and vibrant performances (it’s definitely deserving of its own documentary). According to the festival’s site, “It is an occasion highlighted by a colorful procession where an offering of fruit and flowers is made to Oshun, the Yoruba goddess of the river.”

So it’s especially fitting that the 51st Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi was among the attendees as the occasion presented an august opportunity for the traditional ruler of Nigeria’s Ile-Ife—considered the birthplace of all Yoruba people—to engage more than 3,000 Ife indigenes living in the U.S. on development of the ancient Yoruba town.

Photographer Sofiya Ballin of Philly.com captured the devotees showing out for the culture. Here’s what she had to say about Sunday’s fête:

Odunde is part of the reason I fell in love with Philly. Beautiful black people from across the diaspora showcase their culture, support black businesses, learn from each other and love themselves on an intrinsic level.  I wanted to capture that  energy and the style. Our diversity manifests through our style of dress and our hair. People come dressed in African prints and always find innovative ways of mixing them with their own personal flair. This was my fourth Odunde and I knew I could arrive how I was.  Just being there around all my people and watching them be happy in their skin is life giving. The whole time I thought to myself, ‘Wow. We are SO beautiful.’

Check out the photo highlights below:

Maxim vs Prophet, Rain Water and Janee rock earth tones at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on

Maxim vs Prophet, Rain Water and Janee rock earth tones at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on

Shahadah at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on unday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

Shahadah at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on unday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

Maryam & Friday Allu match in more ways than one. Friday, who is Nigerian says, “This is my culture, this is my identity. I’m not going to differentiate. We [black people] have differences but we are here for one purpose: African identity.” Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

Maryam & Friday Allu match in more ways than one. Friday, who is Nigerian says, “This is my culture, this is my identity. I’m not going to differentiate. We [black people] have differences but we are here for one purpose: African identity.” Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

Na- Marley Badger, 27, is half-Ghanaian and on the hunt for frankincense and indigofabrics. But she’s killing the game while doing it. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

Na- Marley Badger, 27, is half-Ghanaian and on the hunt for frankincense and indigofabrics. But she’s killing the game while doing it. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

“There’s so much love, good music and so many black people.”  says Kavindu Ade, 25, at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sunday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

“There’s so much love, good music and so many black people.”  says Kavindu Ade, 25, at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sunday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

Kingsley Ibenche, Keturah Benson and Alex Ibenche show that great slay comes in threes. Photography by Sofiya Ballin

Kingsley Ibenche, Keturah Benson and Alex Ibenche show that great slay comes in threes. Photography by Sofiya Ballin

Rakia Reynolds, owner of Skai Blue Media, dons beautiful pastels and a contagious laugh at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sunday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

Rakia Reynolds, owner of Skai Blue Media, dons beautiful pastels and a contagious laugh at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sunday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

Traditional face paint and an unexpected kiss at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sunday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

Traditional face paint and an unexpected kiss at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sunday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

“Odunde is a wonderful way to see beautiful black people,’ says Danielle Whiteside, 33, at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sunday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

“Odunde is a wonderful way to see beautiful black people,’ says Danielle Whiteside, 33, at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sunday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

esse Piggott, 23, killing the locs pompadour game at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sunday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

esse Piggott, 23, killing the locs pompadour game at the Odunde Festival on South Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sunday June 12, 2016. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

Jayla and Khai, 5, told their mom they wanted to be African princesses. They succeeded. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.

Jayla and Khai, 5, told their mom they wanted to be African princesses. They succeeded. Photography by Sofiya Ballin.