Annual event aims to showcase African culture, tradition

Ashley Lau

Rhythmic music pumped through a stereo as two girls wearing high heels and colorful African dresses walked across a room in Parkes Hall. About 15 members of the African Student Association (ASA) gathered to practice for the fashion portion of their upcoming 8th annual Cultural Show on Wednesday night.

The actual performance will take place Sunday at 5 p.m. in the McCormick Auditorium of Norris University Center. This year will be the first to highlight all aspects of African traditional culture through dance, drumming, poetry, music, fashion and skits. In previous years, the show focused exclusively on fashion.

“It’s a chance for Africans and non-Africans to just socialize and interact,” said McCormick junior Yemi Adetiba, ASA events coordinator .

Themed “Africa: The Next Generation,” the event will feature Northwestern’s African Drum and Dance Ensemble, Movement Step Team, Chicago guest performer Uche Omoniyi, student-performed skits, poems, drama and a fashion show. A food reception featuring traditional African dishes will follow.

By showcasing cultural performances, ASA members hope to look beyond the negative images of Africa and celebrate the culture, said President Karen Attiah, a Communication senior.

“We see that there’s a lot of negativity in the media and awareness about problems facing Africa,” she said. “It’s always about violence and so we try to show a positive side. That’s why we have a cultural show to show people that we have an active, vibrant, colorful culture and that we’re proud to be African.”

A satellite group of the black student alliance For Members Only, ASA received A-status last year, making them eligible for more Student Activities Fee funding.

The group’s focus on the African community and the culture of the continent’s diverse countries sets ASA apart from other African-American Student Affairs groups, Attiah said.

“We are, in a sense, the only group that deals specifically with African culture,” she said. “We have experiences in the continent. We’re immigrants ourselves or our parents are immigrants so we have a unique cultural perspective when it comes to awareness of African issues.”

The group’s membership includes students from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Eritrea, Kenya and Cameroon.

Many of the traditional outfits modeled during the fashion portion of the show come from Africa through member donations. ASA Secretary Sijh Diagne brought back most of the men’s dress-like outfits from his stay in Senegal this past summer.

This is the third year that McCormick junior Jennifer Ahoni will participate in the show.

“In my hometown, there are not a lot of Africans,” said Ahoni, whose parents are from Ghana. “It’s really great to spend time with people who can share that same cultural background with you. You really get to embrace your culture by wearing all this clothing and eating all the foods.”

Members have been planning the show since last November and are expecting around 200 people to show up for the free, two-hour event.

“We’re trying to show a different image from the typical image that people in this community have of Africa, (which is) an image of poverty and AIDS,” Diagne said. “The fashion show is really entailing the beauty of Africans and what being from Africa means.”

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