“Je Suis Afrique,” a cultural show put on by the African Students Association, started fashionably late, waiting for all the audience members to file into the crowded Student Union Ballroom. Afrobeat music was playing and the lights were dimmed as students connected with their friends, took photos and found a good seat before the show began. The show featured fashion and dancing inspired by African culture.
Significantly taking place in February, Black History Month, “Je Suis Afrique” is one of a number of events that celebrate African heritage and culture. “Je Suis Afrique” is French for “I am Africa.”
“I think that they just want Africa to resonate with everyone,” ASA member and second semester molecular and cell biology major Fatou Lack said. “It’s a way to show the culture.”
The ASA accomplished this display of culture through a number of methods, including the fashion designs, a number of dances and the kickoff to the event, a parade of flags.
The fashion was perhaps the most emphasized aspect of the evening. Clothing was modeled from Heritage Links, Mizizi, So Cakes, Obioma, and the Queen Collection, all of which featured lines inspired by African culture or designs. The designs varied from very traditional African styles and patterns, like Heritage Links modeled, to more American lifestyle pieces, like Mizizi’s line of jersey-type shirts with the names of African countries or phrases like “Black lives matter.” A wide variety of articles of clothing were displayed: shirts, pants, dresses, jackets and to much applause, swimwear (So Cakes).
Dancers came up on stage not only at the beginning of the event, but after intermission, and at the conclusion of the event. The dancing started with a map displayed on screen, showing Storrs. A line was then drawn from Connecticut to Nigeria. From Nigeria the map drew a line to Uganda, from Uganda to South Africa, and on to Ghana, Egypt, Madagascar, Cape Verde and Mozambique, finishing back in Storrs. Each country prompted a shift in the Afrobeat music and the dancing. The map reemphasized that African heritage was an important part of the evening.
After Heritage Links kicked off the show, host Hazel Dennis, founder of “Fists Up Afros Out,” asked the crowd to shout out the different nations they represented. A number of African nations received cheers, such as Togo, Ghana and Nigeria, but Caribbean nations like Haiti and Jamaica were called out as well. The audience was very reactive, not only in this portion of the event, but also to cheer for friends, impressive designs or surprising dance moves. Going hand-in-hand with the idea that audience members and performers represented nations of Africa, the show began with models carrying in a number of national flags.
Whether audience members were there for the fashion, the dancing or to support their friends, the event was very popular.
“I wanted to support AMA first and foremost,” sixth semester allied health major Javante Danvers said. “But also to dress up and see everyone looking all nice.” Danvers has attended the event for the past three years and said the swimwear was her favorite part.
All of the different aspects and layers of “Je Suis Afrique” came together to accomplish the sharing and appreciation of African culture.
Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.