The crowded Culp Auditorium and its empty stage were transported across the Atlantic as the Shades of Africa event began on November 18.
The event, which was put on by the by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, was full of color and sound as performers danced to upbeat African music and sported traditional African clothing.
The host of African Night was Nigerian comedian Dami Olatunde, also known as AphricanApe, who pumped up the crowd throughout the course of the evening. As the event began, Olatunde immediately got the crowd into action as he enthusiastically posed a question to the audience.
“Who here is proud to be African?” Olatunde said.
Students and performers enthusiastically cheered in response to the question and the event kicked off.
Shades of Africa was not only a showcase, but also a pageant where several contestants competed for the titles of Mr. and Miss Shades of Africa.
Each contestant proudly represented their home country. African nations represented ranged from Kenya to Gambia to Ethiopia, among others. As the contestant introduced themselves they offered greetings in their native languages.
Contestants participated in flag parade, dance, formal wear and sports wear categories. There was even a category where each contestant gave an impromptu response to a question. During this portion one contestant took the opportunity to express the importance of the pageant.
“To me the essence of winning this pageant is to make Africa known to everyone around the world,” said the contestant.
At the end of the evening, the contestants with the highest combined total scores were crowned the winners. This year those winners were Mister Alfonzo and Miss Christina.
Between categories of the pageant competition, the audience was entertained by dance groups and the comedy of Olatunde. Olatunde’s humorous hosting was interspersed with jokes about African vs. American culture and occasionally a few serious and timely topics.
“I tried to get my U.S. visa for 11 years before they would give it to me and my application kept getting denied over and over,” Olatunde said.
At one point there was also a short play written by ETSU student Nifemi Moronkeji which sought to educate others about the rich and varied aspects of African culture. Throughout the play several of the actors repeated the important, and often overlooked, fact that “Africa is a continent, not a country.”
Ultimately, the event gave audience members a deeper understanding of how rich and varied African culture truly is. Olayemi Adeniran, President of Shades of Africa at ETSU, was pleased with the success of the event.
“We’ve had about 50 students come from Africa this semester and we wanted to make them feel welcome,” Olayemi said. “We wanted to showcase African culture on campus and that’s what this night was all about.”