African Festival

Eager faculty members and students crowded around the open doors of Kemper Auditorium as the luscious odors of African dishes welcomed them. In the lobby were many students, grandparents and models for the fashion show who wore traditional African clothing. People eagerly grabbed pieces of hot and steamy dough filled with meat and corns, elegantly placed on the table and kept warm by the foil wrappings. Presented by the African Student Union was the second annual African Festival, with special performances by the musical guest, South African Choir. Inside the auditorium hung multicolored clothes and bold tapestries depicting the African savannah and safaris. As the MC’s, Nonye Odukwe ’10 and Dayo Adewole ’10 began to walk up to the stage, students and their grandparents scurried back to their seats fervently waiting for the show to begin. The festival launched in with a powerful performance by a special guest, African drummer Temba. The audiences began to ease themselves in the stimulating rhythm swaying their shoulders following the steady beat. The potent sound echoed in the closed chamber bringing the audiences closer together under the power of music. A poetry reading by Aniebiet Ekpa ’11 titled “Coming to America” and a comical skit called “Meet My African Parents,” followed the drumming. The skit, filtered with bits of Nigerian cultures and customs, explored the tension and awkwardness of a girl introducing her white boyfriend to her Nigerian family. One of the actors in the skit, Orie Idah ’11 said, “This was one of my favorite parts of the show. My friends and I were able to come together and perform a comedic skit that all people can enjoy and relate to. We had a lot of fun acting out some funny Nigerian family scenarios.” The celebration of Africa continued with a Nigerian song and a traditional dance called “Township Jive.” Although the performers seemed a little nervous at first, both performances were lively and jovial, supported by the cheering crowd that was dazzled by the various showcases of unique differences between African countries. With dashing colors, patterns, cut-outs and sparkles, the fashion show emphasized the traditional garb of specific countries. Models bowed and waltzed as they glamorously came up to the stage. Both men and women participated in the fashion show with separate garments, each looking beautiful after another. Charles Horner ’12, one of the models said, “I really enjoyed modeling for the festival. I think it helped me understand and really immerse into the South African culture.” Compared to last year, many special guest performances were brought onto stage, including Andover’s S.L.A.M and South African Choir. The South African Choir, a four male, four female a capella group, was invited to Andover to entertain and to give a little preview of their performance that will be in Reading next month. The leader of the group explained the background and history of each song, as the audiences sat in awe listening to the melodies tunes of South African music. The final song, inspired by a song sang by the children during the apartheid period, echoed as the audiences commemorated the painful history in South Africa. Idah, one of the board members of ASU, said. “This year’s special guests, the South African choir, were absolutely amazing. Next year we might try to get even more special acts and student performers to make the talent portion of the show that much better.” The high-spirited festival came to an end with a final speech entitled “Akwaaba,” meaning “Welcome” in Twi, a Ghanaian dialect, by Elizabeth Oppong ’12, next year’s ASU president. She explained her speech after the festival. She said, “In this festival we weren’t just saying, ‘welcome to our event.’ We were also saying, “welcome to our culture, our land, our people, and our hearts.” And through the poetry reading and the heartfelt songs, we were inviting the Andover community to learn about us and our culture.” She continued, “That’s why cultural festivals are so important to our community because they allow us to exchange parts of ourselves in a way that brings us closer.” Oppong was pleased at how the festival unfolded on Saturday, but she aims to expand the festival even further next year. “We hope to develop an event that preserves and highlights our culture but at the same time relates to and attracts all types of people in the Andover community. That is a very difficult task but I am confident it will happen, and we had strands of that in our program on Saturday,” he continued. Excited and enthused about the next year’s festival Oppong shared her big ideas and plans on how to extend the festival on campus. She said, “We plan to have more programs that everybody can relate to with our creativity and strong publicity. In addition, we hope to also expand this event by alloying time before the talent show for students to play African games, listen to African music, and try some delicious African food.” The African Festival, without a doubt, was a huge success and will come back next year with more. Oppong added, “We want the Andover community to participate in some facets of African culture and that is one of the ways. Although we represented a lot of countries and cultures at the show, we will work next year to represent even more.”