“Taste of Africa” Gives Attendees Unique Look into African Culture 

Carly Greaves

Students and members of the public were given a taste of African cuisine and culture in the upper Jo Young Switzer Center on March 7 by the African Students Association, who hope to inform others and defeat stereotypes about Africa and the people who live there.

“Taste of Africa” was a VIA hosted by the African Students Association, a Manchester student organization dedicated to helping African students share their experiences as well as educating the community about Africa and its culture. The “Taste of Africa” event is usually an annual event for the members of the organization to share their food and culture with each other. This year, however, the club decided to make it a VIA in order to get the entire campus involved. “A lot of international students have had experiences with indigenous students who have asked them questions about Africa, if Africa is a country, if we live in villages and mud houses,” said Kwaku Archer, senior and president of the African Student Association. “So for us, it’s more about educating people on how things look like for us, how we see things.”

The event specifically took place in the Lahman Room, the space being filled with round tables covered with black cloth and a golden banner. Their surfaces were adorned with vases of roses and lilies that came in red and white and tiny chalkboards with the names of famous African locations, such as Serengeti Park and Banana Island, written on them. More tables had to be set up when a larger amount of people attended than expected. African music played gently from the speakers as people got settled before the event.

Many of these people came to the VIA to sample some African cuisine, and they certainly got the chance to do so. Flavorful chicken was served along with Kenyan casserole, a type of stew with beef and potatoes. There were also sambusas, fried pastries that were filled with either beef or lentils. Another food served was jollof, a rice-based dish popular in many west African countries. The rice is mixed with tomato paste and spices to create a zesty meal. “It was just such a different flavor than I’ve ever had before,” said Gabby Hochstetler, first-year, about jollof. “I was trying to figure out what seasonings were in it and it was really cool to figure that out.”

A unique meal was not the only thing on the event’s schedule. The evening started out with a brief speech from pastor Edward Robertson, originally from northern Liberia, who spoke about several important characteristics of African culture, such being group-oriented and hard-working. Next came a game of trivia, where three volunteers were asked questions about Africa. From this contest, the audience learned several facts about Africa, such as there being 54 African countries and that South Sudan was the most newly formed of those countries. “The trivia was a nice way to teach us some facts we might not have already known,” said Madeline Hanks, first-year.

In addition to this, there was a short fashion show used to display African clothing styles. The vibrantly-colored dresses from Congo were presented along with some examples of habesha kemis, a mostly plain but pleasant-looking traditional dress from Ethiopia. After this, a dance was performed by Foreign Trip, a group based in Fort Wayne. The four dancers performed rapid hip movements and hand gestures to the beat of the music playing, clearly showing their excitement with whoops and clapping. A brief solo dance occurred during the middle of the show, with the dancer showing his skills via quick but smooth movements and some stupendous footwork, much to the pleasure of the audience.

All of the previously mentioned events were interlaced with several singing performances. Andrea Vance, sophomore, sung “Spirit” by Beyoncé early on in the program, giving the audience an idea of what was to come. Later on Maegan Pollonais, assistant director of student diversity and inclusion, led the audience in an acapella performance of “We are marching in the light of God.” Finally, there was Tiffany Phinezy, senior, who beautifully sang “Lessons” by Sinead Harnett, humming and swaying to the beat as she did so.

This experience of African culture offered its participants a rare and enlightening look into a lifestyle different than their own, all while being entertaining. “Diversity is really important, especially for our generation,” said Jared Wayne, sophomore. “I would definitely advise people to come [to this event] just to educate themselves and have a good time as well.”

Hanks agreed. “It’s an interesting glimpse into a culture you might not be exposed to or already know about. It’s just a lot of fun to have people that really care about something show you a part of their lives.”

With flavorful foods and enjoyable performances, “Taste of Africa” gave its attendees a look into the beauty of Africa and its inhabitants’ lives.