Africa is the second largest continent in the world, and a place of rich, diverse cultures and societies. In 2010, South Africa was the first African country to host the World Cup. In 2005, Liberia became the first African country to elect a female president. Throughout the years, the media has given a great deal of attention to Africa’s troubles and problems and, unfortunately, may be responsible for the negative stigma that is often associated with the continent. On Friday, Oct. 15 and Saturday, Oct. 16, the African Culture Society attempted to change the average person’s opinion about Africa and broadcast the continent’s many positive features by hosting its fifth annual iRep Africa Weekend: Africa redefined.
On Friday, ACS teamed up with other Africa-related organizations from the College of William and Mary to host an Eye on Africa trivia night. Most of the events occurred on Saturday, including a speech from Johnny Moloto, the deputy chief of mission of the South African Embassy, a ‘Get to Know the Alums’ field day, ‘The Africa You Don’t See’ talent showcase and a ‘Pitch Blaq’ after party on Saturday night.
“Africa has diverse cultures and people and societies, so we wanted to spread that awareness through academia, culture, food and dance,” secretary of ACS Elogien Ali said.
This year the event holds particular importance for ACS, since it was the fifth consecutive year that the event has taken place, as well as the fifth year that the Africana House has been on campus.
“This is the same weekend as Autumn Blast, too, so when minority students come to look at the campus we can show them all of the things that William and Mary offers,” Ali said.
Moloto’s involvement in the weekend produced particular excitement in ACS. With his close connection to South Africa, Moloto was able to focus on Africa’s more positive aspects.
“Johnny Moloto is going to talk about the positive things that have been happening in Africa, and the positive progress that has been made,” Lelise Aklilu, public relations coordinator for ACS, said. “You don’t hear that too often, either. Nobody focuses on the positive progress, and for him to talk about that is huge, especially since the World Cup was just held in South Africa.”
In the past, ACS has kept the same events going throughout each iRep Africa weekend for consistency, but this year they made some changes. The ‘Meet the Alums’ field day was a new event, added in order to reconnect former ACS members with the club.
“We want to have a connection with them, so that in future years, if we do need their help, we will still have that type of contact with them,” Ali said.
Not only is ACS attempting to connect with former students, but is also trying to create a relationship with Africa-related clubs at other colleges. On Oct. 14, some ACS members went to Old Dominion University for their Africa Day, in the hopes that they would then attend ACS’s Africa Weekend.
‘The Africa You Don’t See’ talent showcase illustrated ACS’s attempt to portray Africa’s positive aspects by displaying the variety of cultures that the continent supports. Thirteen groups performed, all in an attempt to exemplify diversity.
“The talent showcase is about displaying all different cultures,” Aklilu said. “Africa is a huge continent with so many countries. There’s so much to offer, and the talent showcase just brings a little bit of that to the stage.”
This year’s theme of redefining Africa resonates strongly for some ACS members, including Aklilu, who was born in Ethiopia and moved to America when she was only 10.
“I know all people talk about when they think [of] Ethiopia is the famine in the 1980s,” Aklilu said. “But they don’t realize the progress that has been made since then. Its economy has grown so much more — it’s not where it should be, but it has grown, and you don’t hear anybody talk about that. If I tell adults I’m from Ethiopia, they will say, ‘Oh my gosh, you must be so lucky to be here. You must be so grateful that you’re here.’ And that offends me because I came from a very good home. I came from a very good place, and I wasn’t missing anything.”
The stereotypes surrounding Africa have erupted from a focus on the continent’s troubles, plights, and political and social turmoil, but ACS’s goal this year was to display other aspects of the continent.
“I just want to tell people, ‘No guys, that’s not it. There is so much more, you just need to look out for it,’” Aklilu said.