Pan Afrikan Student Organization (PASO), will be hosting Gustavus’ annual African Night on Friday, March 5, 2010 in Alumni Hall from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. African Night offers Gustavus students an opportunity to experience various parts of the diverse African culture.
“The African Night is a good occasion for Gustavus students and the St. Peter community to gain some insight into some aspects of African culture,” Paschal Kyoore, professor of French and latin american, latino and caribbean studies said.
“There is a lot of diversity in African cultures, but there is also so much in common, such as the importance of music and dance. Students should take advantage of the opportunity to learn things about the African continent and African peoples that they don’t know and would probably not have the chance to learn elsewhere.”
Kyoore has often performed the Xylophone during African Night and is a native of the country of Ghana.
The event will feature African performances including dances, a fashion show, musical performances and African food catered by local restaurants. The program this year will feature pieces from the Titambe West African Dance Ensemble, three guest student groups, and the Gustavus African committee.
The Titambe African Dance Ensemble originated in Copenhagen, Denmark in February of 2001. They have performed in various places over Europe and the United States, such as Sweden, Germany, Chicago and Texas, yet the founder, Christian Yao Adeti, moved the dance group to Minnesota in 2003, renaming it Titambe West Dance Ensemble.
The goal of this group is to preserve traditional African drum and dance heritage and educate audiences by giveing them an appreciation for diversity. The group itself is made up of Ghanians, Liberians, Kenyans, Trinidadians and those who are American born. Each year PASO selects a feature group to perform.
“I am always looking forward to the dance performances,” Kyoore said. “There is some spirituality attached to African dancing. We dance bare-footed because it is a way of being close to natures, and a way of physically and spiritually communicating with God through Mother Nature. All the joy and exuberance that comes with the dancing is not just for entertainment but also for exalting God for the joyous occasion he has offered us, as well as for all the blessings of life.”
Along with Titambe, other groups will be performing, incuding students from Gustavus.
Dancers from Gustavus on the African Night Committee will open up the show in a traditional-style dance. A group from St. Olaf will also perform a traditional Congo-style dance. Two groups, from the Twin Cities and the University of Minnesota, are coming-the Oromo Youth Association Group and the Somali Group.
Students involved from Gustavus include Baffour Appiah-Korang, Obus Okoh, Gilles Ouedraogo, Hamada Omar, Mita Abebe, Fadumo Mire, Zainab Jaji, Natasha Hercules and Bushra Waheed.
All the clothing in the fashion show is owned and will be modeled by students at Gustavus, and it will demonstrate the various kinds of traditional African wares.
Food will also be available for visitors to sample. Two restaurants will be catering the event: Fasika, an Ethiopian restaurant from St. Paul, and Hamdi, a Minneapolis restaurant that focuses on Somali cooking.
Abdul Suleyman, a senior public accounting major who has been involved with African Night before, will also be performing in the opening dance. “Students should come because a lot of students here come from rural areas and haven’t been exposed to African culture,” Suleyman said. “We need to educate our peers about the food, the culture and the music. We’re celebrating our culture.”
PASO sponsors other events throughout the year, such as Ramadan celebrations, Kwanzaa festivities, and upcoming Hip-Hop night. PASO meets Thursdays at it 9:00 p.m. in the Board Room, and has its own website with information for anyone interested in joining.
“African Night is a day on which the members of the Pan-Afrikan Student Organization strive to bring Africa into the limelight in our community,” said Kyoore. “Africa is a continent that does not get enough attention except when some form of disaster strikes in one of the countries. African culture is often misunderstood by most people in this country, and that’s because they have never studied anything about [the] continent and its people. The media, too, helps in spreading myths and stereotypes, and we need to challenge that.”
African Night will end at 7:30 p.m. in Alumni Hall and will be followed by an African-inspired night in the Dive.