Ubuntu: Unifying Through the Celebration of Diversity

Image of the Flag Procession at ASU’s Ubuntu. Photo courtesy of Morgan Hunter.
Morgan Hunter, Contributing Writer

“When we rise, we transcend.” Audience members of all ages, identities and stories filed into McGaw Chapel Saturday evening, eager for the night that would unite them. As the lights dimmed and the first performers took the stage, captivating silence took hold. This was no mere college club exhibition; this was the African Student Union (ASU)’s biggest event of the year. This was Ubuntu.

Ubuntu is an annual event dedicated to showcasing the diversity and power of celebrating African identities through dancing, singing and fashion. Performances began with students demonstrating Traditional Ethiopian Tigrigna Dance, truly starting the evening off with a bang. Throughout the production, the audience lay witness to other groups representing specific countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire or Zimbabwe, as well as other student groups representing specific dance styles, such as the Afrobeats or Waist Warrior Dance Groups. The set list was lengthy and diverse, not only demonstrating the wide range of African identities but also the vastness of talent so many individuals on campus have to offer. One singer, Byera Kashangaki ’24 explains that despite setbacks, “I was determined to be part of a spectacular production. I hope [the audience members] were able to feel my emotion as I was singing and conveying this message.” About halfway through the evening was the Flag Procession. Students lined up in the side aisles of McGaw, eagerly anticipating the country of origin to be announced, beckoning them to take to the stage and wave their flag with pride. One by one, students were seen showcasing their cultural ties, all the while beaming from ear to ear without fail.

The intensity of cheering radiated throughout the crowd as the professional drumming ensemble GOREE Drum & Dance took the stage. GOREE Drum & Dance is a premier dance and performance company based out of Columbus that aims to keep the authenticity of Traditional West African Dance alive, even traveling to Senegal every two years to train and learn the techniques. Audience members sat in anticipation as they were led in call-and-response rhythm games, clapping along and inevitably tripping over the short beats and fast tempos of the masters. As the two additional members took the stage, those in attendance gazed, wide-eyed and awestruck at the captivating performance. For more information on GOREE Drum & Dance, find them at goreedrumdance.org.

As attendees filed back into their seats after a brief intermission, the lights dimmed; it was time for the fashion show! Students donned clothing unlike any that had already been showcased earlier in the evening. Blazers, dresses, shirts and gowns shined with the rich colors and patterns of traditional African fabrics. Following the final models disappearing behind the curtain, a new face took the stage, none other than Emeka Anyadiegwu, founder of Obioma Fashion. Thanking the crowd, Anyadiegwu explains that these garments are not just clothes; they instead represent his brand, one that prides itself in its Fair-Trade values, ethically sourcing materials and creating jobs for Nigerians. Each piece was designed by combining Western fashion trends with traditional Kente fabrics. For more information, refer to their website, myobioma.com, and their Instagram, @myobioma.

An event of this size is no small undertaking. ASU board members started planning and working on the 2023 production as soon as they were elected back in the spring of 2022. While there were setbacks and frustrations, all were motivated by their dedication to their performances and the excitement for the community to partake. “We hope that they take away the fact that Africa is a diverse continent. Africans are often displayed in the media as single-layered people, yet we are a complex, multi-layered and multi-dimensional concoction of many cultures and tribes,” ASU Co-President Anesu Munyanyi ’23, shares. “We wanted this event to represent that even though we are all part of numerous disparate cultures, we can still produce something that unifies us as Africans.”

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