With vivacious drum beats and tangerine-colored costumes, Umoja — the song-and-dance culmination of Yale’s second-annual Africa Week — pulsed with energy Friday night.
The Yale African Students Association hosted Africa Week, a series of events that took place from Nov. 1 through last Saturday. The lineup featured lectures, panel discussions, movie screenings and art shows, along with the Umoja performance of various African music and dance groups, which attracted an audience of about 100 people to Sudler Hall.
Student coordinators and attendees at the week’s events said they were pleased with the focus on Africa and hope to see continued University involvement with the continent and its people.
“The University has made an effort to become more of an international university,” YASA President Ruth Botsio ’09 said. “Africa Week is an initiative for the University to engage more in Africa.”
In addition to raising money for non-governmental organizations in Africa, Africa Week was also created to provide information and support for students interested in participating in research or community service in Africa, Botsio said.
“We want the University to develop the facilities and infrastructure to help students interested in Africa,” she said.
Fox International Fellow Michael Eastman said the events were successful at attracting students, particularly those who plan to travel and study in Africa, as well as New Haven residents.
One of the week’s events was a panel discussion with Yale administrators Thursday that examined the past and present relationship between Yale and Africa.
YASA Sophomore Liaison Angela Omiyi ’10 said this event was the most relevant to current students because it examined the ways Yale students can get involved in African affairs. Although Yale has had connections to Africa for many years, only recently has the University’s involvement become more extensive, Omiyi said.
For instance, she said, Yale’s only African International Bulldogs study-abroad program — Bulldogs in Uganda — was launched last summer.
Yale has also begun to offer a wider variety of Africa-related courses, Omiyi said, such as “Contemporary Dance of African Expression,” an African studies course taught by Lacina Coulibaly, one of the Umoja performers.
But even with these recent changes, some students at Africa Week events said they think the University should do more to further its involvement with African political and social issues.
“I definitely think that issues from Africa could be addressed a lot more,” said Kevin Beckford ’11, who attended the Umoja performance. “There’s a lack of awareness. Events like this should come out a lot more. African issues need to be brought to the forefront.”
Omiyi said the University has paid more attention to its relationships with some non-African nations, such as China.
Beckford said it was “pretty memorable” to see the wide array of African performances on Friday. Asempa, Yale’s first and only African singing group, performed, as did the African dance troupe Konjo.
Still, one student at the performance said it is impossible to portray the continent’s diversity in a single week.
“Africa is such a big place that it’s a little funny to be having an ‘Africa Week,’” Morgan Robinson ’08 said.
Umoja also featured a belly-dancing performance, a fashion show and a interpretive dance by Coulibaly and Nondumiso Tembe DRA ’09. Panel discussions throughout the week covered topics such as health care, human rights, education and the genocide in Darfur.
YASA also launched the African Literature Book Club during Africa Week.
Botsio said YASA plans to hold Africa Week again next year.