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African Cultural Extravaganza Celebrates Diversity and International Week

December 3rd, 2013

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Ballet Kouman Kele West African Dance Ensemble

The week of November 11th signified CSULB’s third annual International Week and was celebrated across campus to recognize our diverse, global community. As part of this recognition of diversity on campus, the Department of Africana Studies sponsored its second year of the African Cultural Extravaganza event.

Spearheaded by Dr. Uche Ugwueze of Africana Studies, the African Cultural Extravaganza combined elements of history, current events, dance, and food into a joyful event celebrating the rich culture of African peoples.

Dr. Donald Para, Interim President for CSULB, was in attendance as he joined in the celebration of International Week. At the event, Dr. Para noted significantly that CSULB has reached first place in master’s comprehensive universities of international students.

“It is important for CSULB to have that kind of representation,” Dr. Para said and added that “having an international experience here, or preferably in another country, is one of the things that we think is part of making a complete education for our students.”

Dr. Ugwueze echoed these values for the Department of Africana Studies, explaining that the African Cultural Extravaganza  was designed to foster internationalization within the curriculum and research at CSULB by spreading awareness about Africa. Dr. Ugwueze described Africana Studies as a major “designed to provide students with a rich intellectual experience through the critical and systematic study of the life, thought, and practice of African peoples, Continental and Diasporan, in their current and historical dimensions.”

The event certainly did exactly that as it included both guest, student, and faculty discussions on historical and current events in Africa, showing not only the Departments’ efforts to promote international study, but also to spread consciousness about the different tribes, nations, and peoples of African culture. This diversity of culture was visually striking as the Ballet Kouman Kele West African Dance Ensemble accomplished a rousing performance onstage, which generated an upbeat excitement from the audience of students and faculty members present.

Other dances were also represented as Ukeje Agu, a Nigerian Chief of tribe Ojebe Ogene, introduced a traditional masquerade dance onstage. Ukeje Agu described the performance as one typically used during happy occasions. He explained that the “hairy” costumed figure the audience sees onstage symbolizes an ant called an “oveveu,” which has similar looking hair. Ukeje Agu portrayed this ant as one that is quite useful when harvesting crops, making the masquerade figure a positive one.

The African Cultural Extravaganza event mirrored the work of Africana Studies students as it showcased guest speakers who critically examined the Africana experience from an African-centered perspective, or as Dr. Ugwueze clarified, as “a position internal to the culture of the people studied while retaining a respect for and openness to the multicultural character and instructive value of the total human experience.”

As an interdisciplinary and multicultural major on campus, the Department of Africana Studies certainly reflects the College of Liberal Arts’ efforts to foster a culture of students who critically examine the human experience and promote a multicultural environment.

The first video below includes the opening remarks of Dr. Ugwueze, Dr. Para, and Dean Dr. Wallace. The second video shows the Ballet Kouman Kele West African Dance Ensemble and Nigerian Masquerade.