By Kait Bolongaro : TAN UBC On Friday March 11, Africa Awareness Initiative (AAI) hosted its annual African Cultural Night at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at UBC. The evening event featured food and performers that showcased the cultural diversity of Africa with the 50 attendees wearing attire from across the continent. Events such as this are important to ensure that there is a visible African presence on campus and to provide an opportunity for non-Africans to learn more about Africa.
“Every year, AAI hosts a cultural night which is a time to celebrate the culture and diversity of Africa,” said Kanaiya Mutua, Vice President Internal of Africa Awareness Initiative and the event’s organizer. “It is also meant to invite those unfamiliar with African culture to expose them to [the culture]. I just wanted to get as many people as possible to come to the event to generate more interest and awareness on campus about Africa.”
Food was one of the highlights of the evening. Guests were invited to bring a dish from their country of origin to share with others in a potluck style buffet that featured side dishes from around the continent including mandazis from Tanzania and couscous from Algeria. The main course was Ethiopian cuisine catered by Nyala restaurant.
“My favorite aspect of the event was definitely the potluck,” said Sefanit Habtemariam, a second year student at UBC. “Food is the simplest way to bring people together to share their culture. I saw various people talking about the dish they had made, which led to further conversation about their background, culture, and country. It opened up discussions and also satisfied the taste buds!”
African artistic expression was another focal point of the night with spoken word, singing, drumming and dancing. One of the performers, slam poet Ejemen Iyayi, praised Africa and Africans for their strength and resilience. There was also a drum performance as part of an English and Kiswahili skit, which told the story of a young man from the city learning to drum from rural herdsmen. All of the performers were UBC students.
“I was happy that the performers were students,” said Mutua. “It got African students to perform their own cultures and represent it for themselves. They weren’t waiting for someone else to depict their culture for them.”
The African Cultural Night was also an opportunity for the African community to give back. Along the back wall of the Liu Institute was a silent auction and small cultural pieces for sale to benefit the Nuru Tudor Foundation based in Mombasa, Kenya. One of the organization’s directors, Georgia Temple, also sold tickets for a raffle, whose proceeds provided further donations to the foundation.
By celebrating the many cultures in Africa while rallying to support the work of the Nuru Tudor Foundation, there was a strong sense of pride in the African community at UBC and perhaps a slight reminder of home for the students.
“This is a very important event in the year because students away from home feel nostalgic,” said Mutua. “One of the way to remind them of home is to wear the clothes, eat the food, meet and see other people from their own countries and to overall be surrounded by the African atmosphere. A cultural night not only creates that environment but it also unites several cultures into one evening. “
Furthermore, this event showcased the cultural diversity of the Point Grey campus, which is home to students from countries around the world.
“Cultural Night was a really great event that allowed students to appreciate UBC’s diversity,” said Habtemariam. “With an African emphasis, the event outlined the importance at UBC to offer opportunities for Africa’s various cultures to be explored.”
Mutua agreed. “UBC is proud of its diversity and it is important to see the African perspective and to present a beautiful and diverse continent of culture because no one else will unless the students do it themselves.”