The Africa Ball: A nostalgic celebration of African dance, food and music

Zara Morgan, Newsletter Editor

Community. Laughter. Fun. Nostalgia. The African Students Association displayed the unique diversity amongst African students in the Tuscaloosa community through displays of fashion, music, dance and food on March 25 at the Africa Ball. Held at First Baptist Church, the purpose of the event was to showcase African culture and heritage to the Tuscaloosa community, in addition to showing the growth of the African Students Association.  

The guests in attendance wore an assortment of colorful clothing from numerous regions in Africa, including traditional clothing and outfits that combined styles from Africa with Western fashion. The African Students Association achieved translating African culture to members of the Tuscaloosa community of different backgrounds through the use of visual aids, and subtitles when presenters were speaking in other languages.  

“We are using this opportunity to share with the Tuscaloosa community, the University community and those from outside the university about our African culture, our heritage and what it means to us, and how we let other people be part of our coalition,” said Sunday Okafor, a doctoral student studying civil engineering and the president of the African Students Association. “I want to tell people that the African Students Association is growing, and this is a testament to all we can do.”  

Guests were welcomed with a red carpet and pictures and were given introductory interviews from members of the African Students Association at the door. Individuals from all over the Tuscaloosa community came to enjoy and learn about the rich music, food and dancing of various cultures from Africa.  

There were many different presentations showing “Slices of Nostalgia” that different students had from their home countries. For example, they showcased videos of dances from countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa and Senegal.  

While the event was a joyful gathering for the African members of the Tuscaloosa community, it was also an event meant to educate the public. One of the challenges the African Students Association had to overcome was showcasing the different areas of African culture in a way that could be understood by those of different backgrounds. 

“Trying to transport it to this place is actually something different, because you’re trying to make sure you present it in such a way that the people will understand it,” Okafor said. “Because if it’s just within us, we don’t have to do a lot because we are used to it, but presenting it to people of other cultures, you have to make a lot of effort to try to present in such a way that they will easily understand what you’re doing.” 

Included in the presentations were also an array of different games played in Africa as well. One example is Oware, which originated in West Africa, and is played by two players taking turns moving stones across various cavities on a board. Another game displayed was Nzango, a game from the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is played by two teams who take turns trying to predict the dance move the other person is going to make.  

The event was lively and full of conversation as many students and Tuscaloosa community members were hit with the nostalgia of being at home in Africa.  

Paige McCormick, an English professor at Stillman College, was born and raised in Nigeria and said her experience at the Africa Ball was a return to the familiarity of home.  

“[It was] sort of a sweet longing and I think to feel back in a place where you just feel familiar. The air smells right, the trees look right,” McCormick said. “You know the sounds are right and it’s just nice to be around folks where the sounds of the accents and stuff are familiar.” 

Olubusayo Osinubi, a freshman at The University of Alabama studying public health on the pre-med track, said that it was a great opportunity to meet other people from Nigeria and experience other people with similar characteristics.  

“I’ve been able to meet new people from where I come from, Nigeria,” Osinubi said. “It’s been nice being a part of this community and sharing similar things and characteristics with people like me.”  

Ekhorose Aghahowa, a junior studying marketing and management at Stillman College, said she was excited about seeing the colorful guest attire and sense of community.  

“Coming here feels like home, having to see people dress like me, speak like me. It’s just a sense of community as we have in Nigeria,” said Aghahowa. “It has been the dressing, so people come out in different colorful and beautiful attire.” 

In addition to appreciating being surrounded by reminders of home visually and audibly, the Africa Ball also used food to represent the theme of Nostalgia.  

Throughout the night, guests were treated with traditional food from places such as Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. Food items ranged from small, round puff balls made from sugar, flour and spices to jollof rice made from peppers, onions, chicken stock, spices, rice and tomato paste. 

“It’s very difficult to find Nigeria food, especially in Tuscaloosa. In places like Atlanta, New York and Texas, you can find Nigerian food because there are lots of Nigerians. Alabama is a little sparser, [the community is] kind of small,” said Oghogho Osemwegie, a senior studying English at Stillman College. “Coming to an event like this is very exciting for me because I get to eat Nigerian food.” 

Okafor said the event was a great success, but it serves as just a glimpse of what is to come from the African Students Association in the future. To learn more about the African Students Association and to stay up to date for future events, visit here.