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Africa Week events celebrate culture

Madeline Buckley | Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Notre Dame’s annual Africa Week, which is dedicated to celebrating the beauty of the continent’s culture, began a week of events with a traditional Mass Sunday.

Sponsored by the African Student Association (ASA), African Faith & Justice Network and African Working Group, Africa Week holds events to showcase the positive, cultural side of Africa, ASA member and week organizer Theo Ossei-Anto said.

“You hear a lot about the bad things in Africa, but there is so much culture and beauty that people overlook all the time,” he said.

The week’s theme, “African Roots in Every Garden”, contemplates the widespread influence of African culture. The events of the week will show “how African culture has influenced many cultures around the world,” Ossei-Anto said.

The activities and events will incorporate elements of Brazilian, African American, and Latin American culture along with elements of African culture to demonstrate the African influences in each culture and society, he said.

Tonight’s event, a lecture co-sponsored by ASA and the Kroc Institute entitled “Catholic Peacebuilding in Africa”, will feature three Catholic Bishops who have worked in Nigeria, Northern Uganda and Burundi, Ossei-Anto said. The talk will take place at 7:45 p.m. in the Hesburgh Center for International Studies Auditorium.

Africa Week continues Wednesday with a “Service Day” involving the Robinson Community Learning Center. Children from the center will come to Notre Dame to hear a presentation regarding the theme of Africa Week, emphasizing the modern-day impact of African culture, Ossei-Anto said.

“Since a lot of kids are African-American, they will hear about how their culture has impacted music, dance and sports,” he said.

Afterwards, the children will play soccer with students at Stepan fields.

Thursday’s event, “By the Fireside: African Roots in Every Garden,” is based on the old African tradition of gathering by the fire, Ossei-Anto said.

“In Africa, when [tribe members] returned at night, they would sit around the fire, and elders would lead the conversation, giving advice or telling a story,” he said.

The talk will take place at 6:30 around the fireplace in the CoMo lounge. Event organizers invited four members of faculty, including University vice president John Affleck-Graves, to act as the elders and mentor the Notre Dame community around the fire, Ossei-Anto said.

The finale of Africa Week, Africa Night, will take place at 7:30 Saturday in Washington Hall.

“Africa Night is the embodiment of what Africa Week is,” Ossei-Anto said, “The night is a showcase of African culture: drumming, singing, dancing and anything that is part of the joyous and rich culture of Africa.”

The show consists of different performance groups both on and off campus, including African dancers and singers, as well as Brazilian and Latin American groups to demonstrate the Africa Week theme of “African Roots in Every Garden,” Ossei-Anto said.

“For example, Latin dancers will salsa to some East African music,” he said. “The night serves as a reminder that Africa is not just poverty. There is so much history and culture, and we want to promote it on campus,” Ossei-Anto said.

Tickets for Africa Night can be purchased for $3 at the LaFortune Box Office or at the door. The proceeds from the night, as well as the money raised through sales of Africa Week t-shirts, will be donated to the Saint Joseph County’s chapter of Red Cross Refugee program, Ossei-Anto said. Although the week is primarily about a celebration of African culture, he said, the money raised from the week will be donated to African relief.