Students explore African dance, culture at extravaganza
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
The University Student Union Beach Auditorium filled its entrance with African art and Nigerian food while guests wore colorful clothing, and African dancing was performed with musicians who played live drums.
The African Cultural Extravaganza was coordinated by Africana Studies professor Uche Ugwueze, who read from her new book, “Guns in Every House,” during the event. The book explores the effects of HIV/AIDS on orphaned children, who mostly live in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ballet Kouman Kelle West African Dance Ensemble made their way to the stage with live drummers to perform some of their traditional styles, including Lamba. Cal State Long Beach alumna Olivia Trevino said that Lamba is traditionally known as a healing dance if someone is sick or has mental illness.
“I think that this [African Cultural Extravaganza] is a really important event because we have a rich Africana Studies program here, and yet I don’t think that many people know about it,” Trevino said. “That kind of dance is representative of the philosophy to Africa’s tenacity and spirituality of, if you’re falling down to get up, keep on dancing.”
Also in attendance was Theater Arts professor Anne D’Zmura, who promoted CSULB’s study abroad program for Tanzania. D’Zmura said she is a part of the International Africa Sub-Committee who helped to organize the whole event.
D’Zmura said this event is vital because a lot of people do not know about Africa’s rich and vibrant culture.
“I think there is little understanding of Africa as a continent, as a culture,” D’Zmura said. “I think it’s imperative to wake us up in our little silo.”
During her speech, D’Zmura said that when African American students went to Tanzania with her, they were often questioned by their families and friends on why they were going. After going to Tanzania and being welcomed by the natives who called them brothers and sisters, most of her students wanted to go back, D’Zmura said.
“There’s a huge welcoming ceremony, and they [the Tanzanians] had never seen anyone who had the same color of skin other than Africans,” D’Zmura said. “When my they came up to my students and started speaking Swahili, my students were not able to talk very well. They automatically assumed they were snobs from the big city and that we had brought them.”
Trevino said that the study abroad trip to Tanzania was very rewarding.
“You’re actually living and worrying in a village with villagers who have no running water or electricity … but you’re helping build schools and helping children,” Trevino said. “It’s a spiritually uplifting place, and yet they live in so much poverty. Life should be hard for them, but they’re not weighed down by the same things as we are.”
Sophomore nursing major Vanessa Ichullingya said she enjoyed everything the event had to offer and would definitely come back next year.
“The Nigerian food is absolutely delicious and the dancers were beautiful as well,” Ichullingya said. “It’s important because a lot of people, African American in particular, don’t know enough about their African heritage, so I think it’s important to know a little about where you’re from. Africa is very different from what you see on TV.”
D’Zmura said she hopes to make the African Cultural Extravaganza an annual event.