Members of the University of Oregon’s African Student Association gathered around a conference table in the Erb Memorial Union for their last staff meeting before their biggest event of the year. The table was scattered with computers open to various planning documents, advertisement posters and detailed event schedules. Members were tense and anxious as they scrambled to lock in last minute details.
This year, UO’s ASA will be hosting its 15th annual Africa Night. The ASA serves as a method of bringing African culture to the UO campus in a way that allows it to be enjoyed by all. The organization hosts a myriad of special events throughout the year; in addition to their general meetings, last term they hosted Taste of Africa and in the fall they put on an open house for anyone who was interested in joining the organization and learning more about it. Though, Africa Night is by far their largest and most extravagant event.
Each year the ASA incorporates a mix of different forms of entertainment: traditional and contemporary dance, a fashion show, singers, spoken word and many other testaments to African culture.
While Africa Night carries a similar theme of displaying as much of Africa’s culture as possible, ASA continues to change what is featured in the event. In previous years they brought a live cheetah, acrobats and a balancing act performer who carefully placed himself at the top of a tower of chairs. This year they will be hosting Massamba Diop, a Senegalese drummer who is famous for his work in Marvel’s “Black Panther” soundtrack. He will be performing a drumming set for the event in addition to many other musicians and singers.
“Our goal is to expose everyone there to as much of African culture as possible, all the way from the far north to the south, the east, the west and everywhere in between,” said Marie Rose N Tonguino, treasurer of ASA.
Different cultural aspects of many of the countries throughout Africa will be featured in the event, whether it be in the fabric someone wears in the fashion show or a type of food that will be served.
“African culture is very diverse and complex,” said Nelly Nouboussi Nkenfack, co-director of the organization.
There will be many vendors in attendance serving a plethora of different food from a variety of African countries. “I’m most excited for the food,” said Habibatou A Traore, secretary for ASA. “You just don’t find African cuisine in Eugene, and we’re going to have so much of it.”
This year the ASA is giving Africa Night more of a gala feel and encouraging attendees to dress nicely. Organizers are also encouraging guests of African descent to wear clothing from their cultures and embrace the celebratory nature of the evening.
“My favorite part of the event is seeing all the Africans come together because it connects me with my home.” said Nkenfack.
All events hosted by ASA are planned and run by student volunteers who are passionate about their cultures and want to bring them to UO. Each member of the ASA takes a role in the planning process as a director, treasurer, secretary, recruiter or member advocate. Together they collaborate to execute successful events.
Seating is limited at Africa Night so members are encouraging those who are interested in attending to come as early as possible so they don’t miss a performer and are guaranteed a seat. “Expect to come and have a lot of fun and to be exposed to something that you’ve probably never seen before,” said Nkenfack.
The event is being held free for the public in the EMU Ballroom on May 12 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“We’ve all put in a lot of work and we’re excited to see all our hard work pay off and watch everyone enjoy [Africa Night],” said Theemeshni Govender, co-director.