The middle two weeks of this November, St. Olaf celebrates Africa Weeks, a series of events that honors the beauty and diversity of African culture right here on campus.
Africa Weeks is sponsored by Karibu, the African organization on campus. Karibu, in turn, is sponsored by St. Olaf’s multicultural associations, the Office of Multicultural Affairs MCA and Harambee, the umbrella group for all multicultural associations on campus.
According to its description on the St. Olaf website, “Karibu is an organization created to strengthen the African and African descent community and those interested in the culture as well as to increase the awareness, understanding and celebration of the various countries of Africa and their unique cultures among all students of St. Olaf.”
To open this year’s Africa Weeks celebration, students attended the opening ceremony in Buntrock Crossroads, which included a traditional Angolan dance.
On Wednesday, Nov. 7, English Professor Joseph Mbele told African Folklore. Mbele, who hails from Tanzania, is passionate about African culture. The author of “Africans and Americans: Embracing Cultural Differences and Matengo Folktales,” Mbele is an expert in both African culture and folklore.
The following day, Karibu organized activities during chapel, including the reading of some Bible verses in five different languages, as well as a rendition of the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili.
“We try to incorporate a plethora of events,” said Ola Faleti ’15, Karibu’s public relations officer. Indeed, on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 8, the club hosted a showing of the Kenyan film “The First Grader,” which tells the true story of an 84-year-old Kenyan man who fights for the right to get the education he could never before afford.
The following week, on Tuesday, Nov. 13, Karibu organized a panel of St. Olaf students and faculty discussing what it means to be black in America and globally.
On Friday, Nov. 15 at 3:30 p.m. in Tomson Hall, Africa Weeks continues with speaker and documentarian Kobina Aidoo, who will discuss the effects of African immigration on the black identity. He will also screen his documentary, “The Neo-African Americans,” which addresses this same topic.
Aidoo, originally from Ghana, currently works at the World Bank as a public affairs consultant in Washington, D.C. He travels around the country sharing his documentary and speaking about issues of African identity worldwide.
On Saturday, Nov. 16, the two weeks of celebration culminate with Africa Night, a celebration of African performing art.
“It has a variety of dance performances from various ethnic groups, poetry and skits,” Faleti said. And immediately afterward is the Africa Night Pause dance, which will include a variety of entirely African music.
“You know it will be dope to dance to,” Faleti said.
Africa weeks is an annual opportunity for students of all backgrounds to celebrate, appreciate and gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be African today, both in the U.S. and around the world.
Even at St. Olaf, those representing Africa make up a significant portion of the student body. In fact, Faleti estimates that nearly a third of international students are from Africa. Karibu has around 25 members.
“I hope people gain an appreciation of African culture,” Faleti said. “Hopefully some of the ignorance that most Americans have regarding Africa will be replaced with a new awareness. This is only a two-week event, but there is always a strong African presence in our campus.”
Members of Karibu want Africa Weeks to be an opportunity for all students, from those who identify strongly with their African heritage to those who know next to nothing about Africa to deepen their appreciation for African culture.