Members of the University of Oregon African Students’ Association gathered around a conference table at the Erb Memorial Union for their final staff meeting ahead of their biggest event of the year. The table was dotted with computers open to various planning documents, advertising posters and detailed event programs. The members were tense and anxious as they rushed to lock in the last minute details.
This year, UO’s ASA will be hosting its 15th annual African Night. ASA serves as a method of bringing African culture to the OU campus in a way that everyone can enjoy. The organization organizes a myriad of special events throughout the year; In addition to their general meetings last quarter they hosted Taste of Africa and in the fall they held an open house for anyone interested in joining the organization and learning more about it. However, Africa Night is by far their biggest and most extravagant event.
Each year, the ASA incorporates a mix of different forms of entertainment: traditional and contemporary dance, fashion show, singers, oral creation and many other testimonies of African culture.
While Africa Night revolves around the same theme of displaying as much African culture as possible, the ASA continues to change what is presented in the event. In previous years, they’ve brought in a live cheetah, acrobats, and a balance performer who carefully positioned themselves atop a tower of chairs. This year, they will welcome Massamba Diop, a Senegalese drummer famous for his work in the soundtrack of Marvel’s “Black Panther”. He will play drums for the event in addition to many other musicians and singers.
“Our aim is to expose everyone out there to as much African culture as possible, from the far north to the south, east, west and everywhere in between,” said Marie Rose N Tonguino, treasurer of the ASA.
Different cultural aspects of many African countries will be showcased at the event, whether in the fabric someone wears on the fashion show or the 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 dishes from a variety of African countries. “I am very excited for the food,” said Habibatou A Traoré, secretary of the ASA. “You just can’t find African cuisine in Eugene, and we’re going to have so much. “
This year, the ASA is giving Africa Night a gala feel and encouraging attendees to dress well. The organizers also encourage guests of African descent to wear clothing from their culture and embrace the festive nature of the evening.
“My favorite part of the event is seeing all Africans come together because it connects me to my home. Said Nkenfack.
All events organized by ASA are planned and managed by student volunteers who are passionate about their culture and want to bring them to UO. Each ASA member plays a role in the planning process as a director, treasurer, secretary, recruiter or member advocate. Together, they collaborate to organize successful events.
Seating is limited at Africa Night, so members encourage those who wish to attend to come as early as possible so that they don’t miss any performers and are assured of a spot. “Expect to come have fun and be exposed to something you’ve probably never seen before,” Nkenfack said.
The event will be held free of charge to the public in the EMU Ballroom on May 12 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“We all worked a lot and we are delighted to see all of our hard work paying off and everyone enjoying [Africa Night]”said Theemeshni Govender, co-director.