Africa Week: A 400-level course

You may have been surprised when, this past Sunday, a flash mob graced Cafe Mac. African-inspired music boomed throughout the building, and dancers converged from all corners of the building to dance. The flash mob was to kick off “Africa Week” in style.

“Africa Week” is an annual series of events organized by Afrika!, and the flash mob is an annual occurrence too. This week has been full of events planned to meticulous detail and is accentuated on Saturday night with a Kagin Dance and large performance replete with African music, spoken word, dancing and skits.
The detail put into each event by the organization is part of a great effort to raise awareness about several aspects of African culture and African life. Every year it tries to materialize that goal, and this year is no different.

Ibrahima Dieye ’17, a co-chair of the organization, says “The main theme is ‘Africa 402,’ like a 400-level course, and it’s called ‘The Story of the Hunt Told By the Lion.’ Africa described by the media is like a 100-level course. We want different perspectives.”

Dieye says the week is based on an African proverb that goes: “Until the lion has its own historian the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” The lion, he says, is Africa. The hunter is the media. The purpose of this week is to move past the stories of the hunter and listen to the truth of the lion, or the reality of the African population on campus.

Second on the list of events was a presentation on Monday by five African speakers called “This Matters in Africa.” One speaker talked about different perspectives of communications in Africa. One spoke about the language of the Oromo ethnic group of Ethiopia and the plan for its revival. Another described the concentration of wealth of Sierra Leone and how it does not necessarily equate to overall economic well-being.

On Tuesday, the organization threw an event called “Afrika! in the Kitchen,” where students from Africa cooked the food of their home countries. Foods provided included: West African jollof rice, fried plantains, fried yam and chapatti.

Later that day, a panel discussed relations between Africa and China in “China in Africa: Current Situation and Future Perspectives.” The panel is also held annually, with a different subject each year. This year three speakers emphasized Africa’s interactions with the rest of the world.

The speakers at the panel included Iowa State University professor Francis Owusu, Macalester geography professor Bill Moseley and Ding Fei, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D at the University of Minnesota.
Wednesday was a break for the organization. After Tuesday, which featured two events, the organization needed to plan for a large the large productions this weekend. At the time this was written, they were working with Cafe Mac in providing African options for meals on one day. They were unsure when that would happen, if at all.

On Thursday, a lecture was given by Sierra Leonean Pandit Mami concerning alternatives to support from the West and China in terms of technological advancements and how they can help development in Africa.
Later in the afternoon there was an African bazaar. Tables were set up by students where they displayed several items like traditional clothing and food from their home countries. They explained what those items meant and shared their own personal customs with the rest of the student body. There was also a dance tutorial for those who wanted to join in.

Friday’s big event is the showing of the 2005 South African ilm Tsotsi, an adaptation of the novel by Athol Fugard. The movie tells the story of a young gangster who finds the baby in the backseat of a car and instead of hurting the baby, nurtures it and, through the experience, regains his morality. The movie will be shown in JBD lecture hall from 7-9 p.m.

The whole week ends with a bang on Saturday in Kagin Hall. From 7-8:30 p.m., the big show happens, with several performances that include rapping, singing, dancing and acting. Last year, Dieye says, the show was in JBD, but went past capacity. So this year it is being moved to Kagin. Moral of the story? Arrive early if you want good seats.

After the performances is a Kagin dance from 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., which will be preceded by the service of snacks and refreshments. Dieye says they will have some African snacks.

For Peace Madimutsa ’17, the event coordinator of the organization, the week has been a struggle to set up, especially in the weeks leading up to it. But org positions, he said, meant very little because “everyone did everything.”

The biggest goal of the week is to give people different perspectives than they usually get from the media. “There are a lot of talents in Africa”, says Dieye. “Africans are very present here, and this is the biggest opportunity to show them.”

Another struggle for the the org is displaying diversity across Africa throughout the week. Dieye admits, “It’s always difficult because you have to rely on willingness to contribute. We’ve tried as much as we can but there’s not a lot from North Africa.”

The bazaar, he anticipates, will display the most variety of African heritage, but that too relies on people to sign up. The two events Dieye hopes the most people show up to are the panel discussion and the Saturday performance in Kagin. The panel features important, knowledgeable speakers and was dependent on the expenditure of a lot of money, courtesy of MCSG.

“It will really be a waste if we don’t have a crowd,” he says. Dieye anticipates many people will come to the showbecause it is often the most exciting event of the week.

The planning for this week began last summer and the expectations are huge. The events scattered through the week combine flair with conversation in a grand effort to enlighten the Mac community about what Africa really means. The way Africa Week is planned, the lion seems able to tell its story of the hunt after all.