‘Taste of Africa’ event celebrates complexity of African culture


 Dancers from the 2014 ‘Taste of Africa’ event, which celebrates African cuisine, dance and lifestyles.

Aspen Gage

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An audience made up of students and visitors, both African and American, filled Memorial Hall on Saturday night to attend the African Students Association’s “Taste of Africa” event. But what the audience received was more a flavor explosion than simply a taste.

Essa Bokarr Sey, a former Gambian ambassador to the U.S., gave a speech detailing an Africa he said was misrepresented by stereotypes held in America.

“The images of sounds and sights that are produced about Africa is for public. The images about Africa and the exotic part of that life is very good as a taste,” Sey said. “But Africa is more than misery — Africa is more than a bad hole of diseases that have been ravished and caused to spread their wings outside.”

Sey pleaded with the audience to recognize that Africa does not need “handouts, but hands up” in support. From there, Kobby came back out to introduce a rap performance from Odenkyem and spoken word from English sophomore Gabe Tomlin, both of whom were applauded by the audience.

During the “Best Dressed Competition,” Kobby asked members of the audience if they thought they were the best dressed in the room, and he urged them onstage to be judged by the intensity of everyone else’s cheers. Everyone in the room roared in support of their peers, creating an atmosphere of interactive fun.

The rest of the night was full of dance performances from the ASA Dance Team and Francophone dancers. Two fashion shows debuted — a singer performed in the first, miniature one as models paced the runway, and the second, larger show showcased an energetic performance by models wearing traditional and nontraditional African garbs.

According to Gentille Ntakarutimana, ASA member and sociology and psychology freshman, the group had been up since 8 a.m., preparing food, setting up for the event, and getting the models’ makeup and hair done. But, even with only an hour of sleep behind her, she said she was proud of how the show turned out.

“This event was so important because of the culture we got to share, which I don’t think Americans know much about or understand,” Ntakarutimana said. “The culture is so rich and beautiful, and we are happy to show that to you.”

Miranda Fulce, an elementary education junior, said she had nothing but high praise for the show.

“You could really feel the intensity and the emotion through all their movements. It was amazing,” Fulce said.