African cultures take center stage at ‘Taste of Africa’


Austin Shaw

Students dance during the “Taste of Africa” event on Friday in the Marcus Welcome Center. The event was orchestrated by the African Student Association as a way to celebrate cultures in Africa.

Students from Africa and members of the Wichita State community packed the Marcus Welcome Center Friday night for the Taste of Africa.

The event, which was hosted by the African Student Association, boasted live music and a DJ, a flag show, two fashion shows, dance performances, and Caribbean and African cuisine. Students from multiple nations within the continent of Africa paraded in traditional garb from their cultures.

“It’s a way to share our culture with the university and community”, said Farida Ahuraka, a mechanical engineering student from Nigeria.

The event included students from the entire continent as opposed to just sub-Saharan Africa.

Not to be overlooked was the food, which came from Sorrel’s Jamaican Food LLC.

Debbie Mukamugisha shows off traditional
clothing from The Democratic Republic of Congo during the Taste of Africa event on Friday in the Marcus Welcome Center.

“I think Sorrel’s worked with an African caterer on the side to make all the African food,” Ahuraka said.

ASA President Chinwe Uyanne, a junior studying industrial engineering, was one of the driving forces behind the three-hour event. She said she’s worked diligently to revitalize the ASA.

“Previously there was an ASA, but the organization lacked continuity,” she said.

Known previously as the African and Caribbean Student Association, the organization struggled a couple of years ago to find the consistent leadership necessary to move forward, Uyanne said. She’s been active with the group since she was a freshman.

Uyanne said organizers started holding meetings and events again last fall. The group was already registered with SGA. Now, Uyanne has taken the helm. She said she was very pleased with the way the evening went.

“Seeing everyone here smiling, eating — genuinely having a good time — was the best part about tonight,” she said. “I think next time, we’re going to work a little harder on the budget. Funding for events is quite difficult.”

Uyanne said she’s hoping to bring in an outside performer to put on a special act. She said she also plans to make sure there’s more food next time ASA hosts an event.

Chinyere Okafor, director of the Center for Women’s Studies, spoke to the crowd after the parade of flags. Okafor, who is also chair of the Department of Women’s Studies, danced her way to the front of the room. The crowd applauded.

“I’m overwhelmed by the turnout here,” Okafor said. “Last night, when we were having the rehearsal, I was a little apprehensive, but seeing all of you here — coming out to support all these young people — I’m really humbled.”

Okafor said she expected attendees at Taste of Africa to have a better understanding of students from Africa.

“When you see many of them coming all the way across all the oceans, all the forests and coming here and adapting to America, and learning the language – many of these people speak at least three or four international languages,” she said. “They have heightened skills, but they are also here to acquire more skills, and in spite of everything, they have time to arrange this — to share with Americans their culture because we are all one world.”

Executive ASA member Francis Mukendi is a sophomore from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who is majoring in management information systems. He said preparing for the event took serious commitment and many hours of work.

“The last two weeks have been really tough,” Mukendi said.

He said he’s grateful that everything worked out this year. Last semester, the student group was not able to have an event due to clerical registration problems.

When asked what WSU students should know about Africa, Mukendi said there’s a great deal worth knowing. He said he recognizes that it’s not necessarily American students faults that they aren’t learning about world history and culture.

He said it’s important for non-African students to know that Africa is not one country. It’s many — 55, according to the African Union.He also said that African students are unique.

“There’s a difference in being African and African American, you know,” Mukendi said. “It is not until they talk to us and hear a different accent that they become interested in learning about our country. So, what they should know is that we are students just like them, and we come here to work.

“It’s all about what people are exposed to. Most people do not have the chance or opportunity to learn about Africa. As for me, I learned about America, Europe, and Asia, which is different here. Most people learn mostly about America and maybe a little about Europe. A lot of things people don’t know is because they aren’t exposed to the information. There’s nobody out there saying, ‘This is what you should know about Africa.’

Mukendi and other ASA members said they hope that by hosting events like Taste of Africa that show Americans a little bit about where they come, they will create opportunities for more dialogue and increased understanding.