Students showcase the many cultures of one continent

Emma Dejong

Elizabet Woche was 12 years old when she mastered the dance.

And so were all the other sixth graders in Kenya.

“People find [my dancing] fascinating and exciting,” she said. “And I’m just like, ‘This is something everybody did,’ so it’s not that exciting.”

Woche, a freshman biology andpre-dental major, has never loveddancing. She didn’t even want tolearn. But growing up in Nairobi,Kenya, it was part of the culture.The traditional Kenyan dance isall about movement in the hips she said. She learned the moves inmiddle school, which she doesn’tremember fondly.

“It sucked,” she said, despite thegrin on her face. “It was painful.”

Woche said the instructors heldher stomach in place until shegot the motion down. Now, shedoesn’t dance much. In fact, she has never danced in front of peoplesince living in Kenya, until thisweek.She was one of almost 30 students who performed in SDSU’sfourth annual Africa Night at 6p.m. Feb. 26 in the Volstorff Ballroom.More than 250 people cameto the Sunday night event. “I was really, really nervous,”Woche said. “That’s for sure. Andpeople yelled my name. That made me even more nervous.”

Despite the nerves of Woche and the other performers, Alem Berhanu,the president of the African Student Association, said “It wasbetter than expected.”

ASA Vice President Halima Mulamba said Africa Night is agood opportunity to have fun, aswell as educate the community about life in Africa.“We don’t live in a bush,” sheadded jokingly.

Twenty-one out of 54 African countries are represented on the SDSU campus, and people whoattended experienced a taste of African food, dance, poetry, fashion and comedy.

Lekan Oguntoyinbo, associate professor ofjournalism from Nigeria, Africa,was one of the night’s speakers.“We do this because this is theway we can tell our story on thecampus,” he said.

Like many other African students, Woche’s story comes fromtwo continents, not just one. Sheand her family left Kenya andmoved to Sioux Falls in 2007. Woche was 13. She is the oldest of five children,and she’s the only one who can still speak her native language,Swahili. It’s what she still uses totalk with her dad — even though he speaks English.Woche said her outgoing personalityhelped her adjust to thenew country, as well as to collegelife this year. She has become“very observant,” as she had tonotice the differences betweenAmerican English and British English.“I’ve never heard anything likepants,’” she said. “They pointedat it, and I was like, ‘Oh, my trousers.’”The trick is to just pay attention and listen, she said.

Which, for Woche, is not the trick for dancing. She said herbody just “moves with the beat.”

And it’s this music and rhythm that runs so deeply in African culture, as different countries have different styles.“This is Africa,” said Sefa Kwaben Adekpui, who emceed Africa Night. “Colors, beauty, different people. But it’s all put together on one continent.”And that, Woche said, is whatAfrican dance is all about.“It brings people together,”shesaid.“That’s the main point.”