While some Penn students did their chemistry and English homework this weekend, hundreds of other people learned about Youruban tribal cosmology and an African game called Mancala at the University Museum Saturday afternoon. The ninth annual celebration of African cultures featured dancing, storytelling and children's workshops in an effort to educate the public about the lifestyles and beliefs of West African tribes. One of the main attractions of the event was the Women's Sekere Ensemble, which performed traditional Nigerian music in the Museum's Pepper Gallery. "The performance is intended to keep the preservation of African music alive," said Valerie Sims, a member of the ensemble. "African music isn't written down like European music. It has to be heard and felt." She described the crowd's reaction to the performance as "excellent." Other events included a workshop in which children learned how to create 18th century Nigerian masks. It was directed by Jean Wilson, an artist who works with children's multicultural programs throughout the city. "My table is usually the most crowded table," Wilson said. "The kids love the workshop so much they want to continue even after closing time." To teach the public more about the diversity of African cultures, a tour was held in the Museum's African Gallery which focused on the everyday life of an African village. Esther Gushner, a volunteer guide and 1959 College for Women graduate, noted that it "is important to acquaint people with their history and teach them respect for cultural diversity. "We must understand the cultural contributions of Africa to American culture, such as blues and rap [music]," she said. In the Egyptian Gallery, the Fair Hill dance club performed traditional dances from Ghana. They were accompanied by Van Williams, a veteran artist and dancer from the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble. "Audience participation is an important part of the presentation," Williams said. "The audience was very open and responsive." Darryl Pierce, who attended the event, called the dances "beautiful." "I'm learning things I never knew about [the dances]," he said. Fifth-year College senior Shweta Parmer said that "the demonstration was a nice getaway from campus events." "At campus events, it's mostly Penn students, but here there were a lot of people from the community," she said. In the morning, Shawnnea Lance gave a lecture on Youruban deities. Karen Abdul-Malik, co-founder and director of Duinsity Storytelling, introduced people to African and African American folk tales. To top off the celebration, dance troupe Children of Shango gave a demonstration of African dance. It featured traditional dances from Mali, Senegal and Guinea. "It is always fun [dancing] here at the the Museum," troupe director Hodari Banks said. "We always get a really good crowd."Comments powered by Disqus
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