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African Night brings culture

ALLISON MAZZERELLA, Staff Writer

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On Saturday, April 1, the African Union (AU) hosted their annual African Night, an event that was filled with food, dancing, music and culture. The theme for this year’s event was “We are Africa.”

The event was held in the Maucker Union Ballroom, which was decked out in African colors, from tablecloths sporting the colors of various countries’ flags, to red and green strobe lights, to larger flags representing each country displayed around the room.

Chang Monykuyany, a psychology major at UNI, shared her expectations before the start of the show.

“I’m just excited to see the diversity — something different,” Monykuyany said. “I like to learn about other culture[s], too.”

The audience, which was around 160 in attendance, consisted of students, as well as children, adults and other community members.

UNI President Mark Nook was in attendance.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet people from the community that aren’t just students, and learn more about the different cultures that impact the Cedar Valley,” Nook said.

Food and drink were also provided, with a large variety from plantains, rice, cabbage, fufu, fish and much more.  AU members said the main objective throughout the night was to share Africa’s culture, and within that, their unity and diversity.

As music resounded around the room, the event began with the master of ceremonies, Samuel Atadoga, jumping up on the stage and welcoming the guests as he danced to the music.  He set the tone for a  laid back evening, yet one that promised excitement and entertainment.

Atadoga welcomed Lazarus Adua, assistant professor of sociology and advisor to AU, to the stage.  Adua began the evening by educating the audience on the African Union organization and its recent resurgence.

“At one point African Union was almost dead,” Adua said.  He reflected on how a member of the group confronted him and asked if something could be done to bring it back to life.

“The students worked so hard to put this together,” Adua said.

Adua went on to emphasize that Africa is very diverse, but, at the same time, is unified.

As the “Dream Divas” took the stage next, the performance shifted to a more lighthearted tone. This dance group of four girls kick-started the night as the lights dimmed and music pounded throughout the room.  The energy they displayed, as well as the energy from the rest of the dancers that followed, resonated with the audience, eliciting cheers and applause.

Following this act, Wilson Kubwayo quieted the crowd by reading several poems.  He immediately held the attention of the audience as his energetic charisma and obvious passion for his homeland came through in his poems, which focused on embracing and remembering where one comes from, as well as the issues of poverty, hunger and strength.

After a traditional dance number from the East African Region picked up the pace again, AU members strode around the room for a fashion show.  The performers walked amongst the crowd arm-in-arm in everything from shirts to dresses, head scarfs and jumpers, flamboyantly showing off their brilliantly colored clothes.

Atadoga never missed an opportunity to entertain the crowd with a short dance-off before announcing the acts.  Following the fashion show, there was more dancing, skits and spoken-word, which again emphasized unity, as well as issues such as injustice and poverty.

Artist Togar Howard helped end the night with a bang as he performed a song and dance on stage, which he concluded by jumping down and dancing in the aisles with audience members.  After one more large dance number, Atadoga ended the evening by honoring the AU members who will be graduating from UNI this year.

After the show, Rachel David, a performer and member of AU, stressed the organization’s diversity.

“We are a diverse place,” David said. “Everyone has their own culture and personality.”

The recurring themes of diversity and unity resonated with all the performers and  the audience.

Howard summed up his feelings about the evening, saying, “I’m proud to be African.”

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African Night brings culture