Tablecloths and decorations in bright red, green and yellow set the stage for Sharon Alitema Saturday night as she performed a dance, called the Kinyarwanda, from her home country of Uganda at the African Student Association’s (ASA) Taste of Africa Night.
Dancing at cultural events provides a way for Alitema, an architecture major at the University of Oregon, to showcase her culture through entertainment. She said that being in a country far away from her own can be difficult; but, these events give her a taste of home.
Taste of Africa Night is an annual event put on by the ASA every winter. According to Fatoumata Traore, who serves as a co-director for the ASA, the event used to be formal but they wanted it to feel more open for people because not everyone owns formal attire. So this year they kept it casual.
One thing that Traore said was important about the event is that it helps to “break the stereotype of Africa.” She said that people often mistake Africa as a country, and ignore the individualities of the 54 countries within the continent.
Alitema said she waits for these events to pull out her African attire. “In the Eugene culture people wear sweatpants every day,” she said, “I have a whole box of African clothes I can’t wear.”
This year’s event consisted of multiple activities, a short three-performance show with drummers and dancers, as well as dinner, which included plantains, couscous, chicken, fish, puff puff and rice.
Throughout the night, students tasted Ethiopian coffee and waited in line for henna tattoos, while others played a map game and guessed where each of the countries were located in Africa.
The biggest event that the ASA puts on is called Africa Night, scheduled for June 3 in the EMU Ballroom. However, the ASA staff consists of seven people, so while this event is not the biggest event that the association holds, it can still be difficult for them to host.
“It takes months to plan,” Traore said, “but at the end of the day it is beautiful.”