Although it is 2017, many cultures of our grandiose, collective civilization are still subject to an almost infinite number of misconceptions and judgments. For instance, many people in the Western world still believe that Africa is one country. Another misconception that may be worse than that is that many people know that Africa is not a singular country, but simultaneously fail to realize that each country has a distinct culture. This misconception also persists in regards to people who do not directly originate from the African continent but are a part of the African diaspora in general, such as in the Caribbean.
In opposition to this popular misconception, Africa Day seeks to commemorate and embrace the cultural diversity of the second largest continent on Earth and its people. “I put on Africa Day because I wanted to do it for the African students on campus as well as [African students] in general,” said sophomore Niyat Ogbazghi, one of the event’s main coordinators. “There aren’t that many African students here, and I don’t think their cultures are ever represented. I think it’s important to bring people together to demonstrate the diversity and culture in Africa and its diasporas.” Also, “I wanted to give a taste of African culture [to Colorado College]. Given that I come from an African family, I thought it was important for me to show my culture and for other people to showcase their culture.” After all, demonstrating the distinctions between African cultures is the clearest way to educate people about the misconceptions of Africa.
Africa Day, which took place last Sunday in the Cornerstone Main Space, accomplished this goal by showcasing a modest array of activities and performances that were inspired by various subtypes of African culture. For instance, the event featured a face painting station that included some types of traditional face painting patterns inspired by different African countries, such as Uganda, Madagascar, and Niger. The celebration also involved various musical and dance performances, such as a series of Ethiopian dances and an act involving a Kuku drum from Guinea. Additionally, the event introduced differing kinds of Ethiopian, Eritrean, Egyptian, and South African cuisine through the incorporation of ethnic dishes like chakalaka, injera, and doro wat.
While Africa Day sought to expose people to a small assortment of African cultures, it also sought to, in some ways, identify what it means to celebrate African diversity. “[Celebrating African diversity] signifies the power that the African people [have] to represent just how much African people have contributed to the world, whether it’s through the creation of music or dance,” said Ogbazghi. “It’s important to represent the cultures to show just how much we have contributed to the world and how we deserve to be recognized as African people.” This point is especially valid when we consider that popular musical styles, like blues and rock, originally stemmed out of African American “sorrow songs” in the late 19th century, and gospel music in the early 20th century.
Although the cultures of the African states and their people are unique, one thing does unify them: their stories and experiences. The commonly held, yet inaccurate, belief that Africa is one country intrinsically harms all people of the African continent and its diaspora. One of the ways to eradicate misconceptions around Africa like this, as demonstrated powerfully during the event, is to educate others using stories amidst the inaccuracies. Uniting and supporting each other through the creation of opportunities and engagement with one’s history is just one way African people have fought the faults of others.