They’ve done it again! The Trent African Caribbean Student Union put on their yearly anticipated showcase of culture, Afrobana, this past Saturday evening. Students and community members were treated to a dazzling event, which pulled culture and music from all over the African continent and the Caribbean.
The theme this year focused on the diaspora and highlighted the differences of being 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation peoples. With 16 performances and a powerful introduction, TACSU and other students participants transported their audience to a new world filled with colour and vibrant music. From spoken word to dance routines, nothing was missed in their performance of a lifetime. TACSU executives talked about how they felt this year’s theme was relatable for not just the performers but the audience members as well.
Vice President of Trent African Caribbean Student Union, Najah Mohammed stated, “I think this year’s Afrobana is different than previous years because this was more relatable to the audience as everyone is a part of a diaspora, whether it is the African or Caribbean diaspora. As a result, it was easier for the audience to find pieces of themselves and how they feel about their own diaspora throughout the show.”
Based off of the audience response, this effort seems to have been successful. Many could be heard commenting on how various performances reminded them of their childhood or home life.
President Maryam Rashid also agreed with Mohammed: “This year’s Afrobana was different from previous years because it was personal. The whole reason we made diaspora the theme was so the audience and the performers could relate.”
So what is the diaspora exactly? It is defined as being the dispersion of any people from their original homelands. The show kicked off with a spoken word entitled “Mama Africa and Me” performed by Jabez Paul and Lola Edward-Ajayi. The poem explored the complexities of the diaspora, exploring the relationship between the Caribbean and the continent. Up next was a beautiful and upbeat dance group performance called “Bana ya Congo,” featuring students Davina Mukinav, Mariette Nduaya, Dorinda Afriyie & Sylvia Mulowayi.
We got a chance to catch up with dancer and former TACSU president Sylvia Mulowayi to ask her why this year’s Afrobana was so special. “The acts were different, the spoken word was touching, and the dance performances were so energetic that we shook Market Hall,” proclaimed Mulowayi.
Interludes between performances were filled with colourful commentary from various volunteers throughout the night, as well as videos of TACSU members shedding a light on what being a part of the diaspora meant to them. Jordan King, highlighting his Bajan roots, skillfully played Rihanna’s “Unfaithful” on the keyboard. TACSU Events Coordinator Samantha Banton sent chills up the spines of audience members with her spoken word “Who Am I?”, delivering a thought-provoking poem on what it means to be a Caribbean woman living in the diaspora, and what she hopes her future children would learn from their roots. Banton later explained, “My vision of the diaspora is a community of people who has moved away from their origin but unites in a very diverse community abroad and makes it home.”
Two more group performances followed Banton’s spoken word, the first being a display of dance by 2Crew4U. The second last act before the intermission was a soulful rendition of various songs by Osas Odigie, Kwame Abbagye and Jabez Paul. Swooning audience members enjoyed a capella melodies from the group of young men who called themselves “Chocolate Lavender.” To end the first half of the event Jessica Ferguson, Micheala Palmer and Dorinda Afriyie performed a skit called “Yes Who?” They hilariously acted out scenes where Ferguson, playing the daughter, tried to weather her mother’s volatile temperament. With Afriyie playing the stereotypical “African” mother and Palmer portraying the stereotypical “Caribbean” mother, each portion of the skit left the audience laughing.
After a 15 minute intermission, where folks could receive small henna designs, the show returned with the “Bongo Flava” group performance, followed by the Trent International Student Association (TISA) Choir singing “Africa” by Toto. Next came the Gumboot Dance, which is known here and in the U.S. as ‘stepping’. The commentator explored different origin stories for stepping, from black sororities in the United States to communities in South Africa.
Joe Ugiomoh executed the third and final spoken word of the night titled “New Black.” Delving into what it means to be black in the diaspora, Joe utilized his spoken word to explore black stereotypes, pose questions about blackness and narrate the story of the emergence of a “New Black” era. Events Coordinator Samantha Banton returned to the stage with former TACSU executive Mikeela Shellekie to sing a collection of Caribbean songs across different genres, calling their performance “Caribbean Mashup.” Ferguson, Palmer and Afriyie also returned to continue their skit while another group showcased “Bahamian Dance” using soca songs and upbeat dance moves.
Afrobana ended with two amazing dance performances, the first conducted by the TACSU Rec Dance Team, which was a large group of students dancing to Tanzanian beats. The last group was “Afro-Ninja,” made up of Esther Ofumelu, Joshua Boateng, Kwame Abbagye and Isi Mafiana featuring drummer Austin Ansah. It was the last performance that really sent the message to the audience that we are all a part if the diaspora. The stage filled with all of the performers of the night, audience members were invited to come up and dance while others laughed and cheered on from the crowd.
When asked why Afrobana was so important to the Trent community Shellekie replied, “This show is instrumental to the Trent and Peterborough community in that it allows both performers and the audience to engage in an exchange of culture, to learn something new about someone else, and of course about yourself.” President Maryam Rashid said, “We want Trent to leave the show educated. We want them to see the diverse cultures that exist in Africa and the Caribbean; from the music and moves of Tanzania, to the sounds of Ghana and all the way to the beautiful melodies of Jamaica and Anguilla.”
Many of us are far away from home or are the children of parents not born to these lands. The diaspora is a collection of all of us, and sometimes it can feel lonely. Saturday night however, TACSU and all of the volunteers who participated in Afrobana allowed for audience members to feel like they were part of a community, and in some cases, to get a little taste of home in the process.