Imagine bringing the best parts of a culture together into a single evening. Imagine the food, dancing and cultural trademarks of Africa in a setting that provokes both the modern and ancient forms of African culture. Imagine yourself at African Culture Night.
On April 28 in the Social Science Lecture Hall and Plaza the Nigerian Student Association hosted their fifth annual African Culture Night. The evening was a composite of modern and traditional cultural features from all parts of Africa ranging from drum-accompanied dances to storytelling and fashion shows.
The Nigerian Student Association, founded on UC Irvine’s campus on March 14, 2003 is comprised of not only Nigerians but also many other African and non-African members. NSA formally announced their goals as the growth of knowledge among students of past and present Nigerian culture and to strengthen the Nigerian community on campus.
Hosted by NSA members, Bode Adeniyi and Nikiruka Ojukwu, both second-year biological sciences majors, the evening began with an ensemble drum performance by Adisa Anderson, a third-year psychology major, his younger brother.
Of the two pieces performed, the first was a blend of fast, heavily pounding beats in a controlled, yet frantic rhythm. The second was a more rhythmic, slowly climactic version of its predecessor.
The drumming continued through the next performance by UCI’s A-crew. Adorned in black dancing leotards and African-print wraps, the A-crew performed a choreographed a dance that incorporated African-American praise dancing, hip-hop dancing and traditional African dances.
Other dance performances by the Dominguez Hills dancers and the Niancho Eniyaley dancers and drummers followed later in the evening. The Dominguez Hills dancers also combined fast-paced, modern African-American dancing with traditional African and Brazilian dancing accompanied by their own African music. The Niancho performers of West Africa demonstrated two African dances, the first a customary dance used during marriage ceremonies and other joyous occasions, and the second a more freestyle dance with large sweeping movements and high-speed gymnastic tumbles. During both performances, audience members were encouraged to clap along and join the dancers onstage.
The evening also included three poetry performances infused with contemporary perspectives of African culture by recruited artists Christian Bryant, Nnamdi Okafor and the famed Renaissance Man of Los Angeles.
After several energetically charged performance, Mrs. Apakama, an African storyteller, slowed the evening down a bit with her rendition of the African story ‘The Drum.’ The story told the tale of Taru, a mischievous staple African character who travels to the spirit world chasing after a succulent fruit and receives a magical drum, which provides him with ample food during a time of famine. After showing off in front of the animals, they crown him their king. His arrogance and greed lead to the smashing of the drum and provided a valuable lesson for humility and generosity over conceit and avarice.
The performance portion of the evening concluded with a slideshow presentation of the many features of Africa ranging from little-known vacation spots, famous African actors and actresses and information about the current AIDS crisis.
After the performances, a buffet and dance was held outside in the Social Sciences Plaza. The food included marinated chicken curries, flat bread and spicy vegetable curries.
Alexandra Gurley, a former UC Irvine student and observer of the evening’s performances, found the exposition educational and entertaining.
‘It was nice to see parts of Africa that weren’t all about AIDS and famine. I learned that even though there are parts of African culture that seem ancient or old-fashioned to Americans, they are actually really contemporary and used every day in African culture. They are a people that stay close to their traditions and customs while adapting and I’ve gained a lot of insight and information on African culture.’