The African Students Association held its 18th annual culture show Saturday to highlight the past, the present and their perceived future of the African continent.

Titled “Afrolution: We Were, We Are, We Will Be,” the show featured a fashion show depicting ethnic wear from various African nations as well as a Congolese dance, among other cultural performances, to an audience of more than 300 at the Power Center for Performing Arts.

LSA senior Lukonde Mulenga, president of ASA, said the group’s event committee selected the phrase “Afrolution” to represent the continent’s evolution on various levels, such as social, political and economic.

“We all believe that Africa is up and coming and people aren’t ready for it,” she said. “That’s why we’re calling it the ‘Afrolution.’ It’s the evolution that we don’t think people are ready for. It’s kind of cool.”

The show was split into three sections — past, present and future — and allotted each of the performances to represent one of these sections. Performances in the “past” segment represented traditional elements of the continent’s past that tied into African roots, such as a Congolese dance performance choreographed by Jean Claude Biza Sompa, instructor of dance in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Biza Sompa said his routine was called a “Mamudelle,” a dance about everyday life in Congolese villages, and combined it with music from the Congo’s resistance to and subsequent independence from being a Belgian colony.

“I basically choreographed what I see people doing working in the plantation, people going to get water, watching people in the village and what they do,” He said. “I’ve taken music from the resistance, from war and dispute, not really to fight, but to show strength that we’re better and we’re stronger as a group.”

Biza Sompa noted it was important for the audience to view various cultures from the African continent to dispel negative misconceptions they may have about its people and culture. The ASA cultural show, he said, gives people the opportunity to see many of these cultures on one stage.

“A lot of times, people have the notion to think that Africa is one country, but Africa is a continent,” he said. “It educates people to know the continent of Africa, how it is separate from different countries. People talk about African music, or African dance, but technically it’s not really African dance, because nobody can really do a dance for one entire continent. When they come to see the show it’s like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know there are different countries that have their own different way to dance.’ ”

Mulenga echoed Biza Sompa’s hope that students will realize the richness of culture Africa has to offer and shape a new understanding of what the continent is like.

“I hope they understand that we are very diverse in what we represent, but we all come together as a collective to say we are the African people and that’s something that resonates with every single African,” she said. “I hope they take away a new appreciation of the cultures that they encounter in the show and I hope somebody in the audience will be inspired to join ASA for next year.”

LSA junior Ayantu Kebede said her biggest takeaway from the show was the solidarity she witnessed between students and audience members with origins from different African countries.

“Even though we get mistaken for a country once in a while, the countries within Africa themselves are very supportive of each other and all of the different cultures within each country,” she said. “It’s nice to see a show that’s highlighting all the cultures. I hope people have a good time and that this is a way for them to learn more about different cultures outside of their own.”

One of the culture show’s biggest effects, Kebede said, is the amount of exposure it gives African cultures to students on campus.

“I think it helps to bring visibility to students on campus who are of different ethnicities and races and come from a different cultural background,” Kebede said. “This school puts itself as a school that’s very much for diversity and inclusion and all of that. To provide spaces where students can display their culture is a really good step forward.”

LSA junior Will Chen and Business sophomore Cori Wong said they came to the event to support a friend who was working backstage, but also enjoyed the view into African culture that the show offered them.

“So far it’s been a great experience,” Chen said. “I’m learning a lot and I’m definitely appreciating a lot of different cultures a lot more and I’m definitely seeing elements of this culture that I haven’t really been able to see before. More than anything, I am grateful for the opportunity to be here.”

The show, Chen added, allowed him to see a common ground between African cultures and those from other parts of the world.

“It’s important to be out of your comfort zone, and by that it means being able to appreciate other cultures, being able to see what they have to offer,” he said. “And basically being grateful that that’s what makes the world go around, seeing a bunch of different elements and seeing how that can relate to your life, no matter what race or color you are.”

Wong said she most liked the affection many of the students participating in “Afrolution” had for their cultural roots, and was impressed by the bond they had formed with them.

“It shows a lot of the pride they have for their home countries, their culture and how their family brought them up,” she said. “The community has a lot of pride for their culture and I think it’s really great that they have a show for people like me, who don’t know much about it to learn more.”

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