African Culture Week to Feature Grammy-Nominated Musician

African Culture Week

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Illinois Wesleyan University will celebrate African cultures and traditions during African Culture Week, Nov. 5-10. The annual celebration will include a series of events tied to African culture, including a master class with Grammy-nominated musician from Mali, Cheick Hamala Diabate, on Nov. 9 from 11-11:50 a.m. in Presser Hall Room 258.

“Celebrating African cultures is an important way to highlight the significant contributions the amazing peoples of the African continent have made to life on our planet: vibrant music, scintillating fashion, scrumptious cuisine and brilliant artistic media,” said Professor of Anthropology Rebecca Gearhart Mafazy, whose research focuses on non-western music and dance performance traditions primarily in East Africa.

Angelo Kakande, senior lecturer of ceramics and art history at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, will kick off the week with a talk, “Speaking Through Kings?” on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Beckman Auditorium of Ames Library. An artist and art historian with an interest in law and human rights, Kakanade is also Senior Research Associate at the Department of Fine Art at Rhodes University, where he focuses on the ways in which art functions in the defence of individual and collective rights. His talk will focus on artists and the portrait of traditional kings in Uganda.

Students will celebrate African rhythms on Tuesday, Nov. 6, during an African Drum Jam from 12-12:45 p.m. in the Dugout in the Memorial Center. The event will feature an array of African drums and percussion instruments for students to play.

On Nov. 8, an African Beading Party will take place from 4-7 p.m. on the second floor lounge in the Center for Liberal Arts. Participants can purchase and select from a wide assortment of beads, including hand-painted Kazuri beads made by a women's coop in Nairobi, Kenya, known for making beaded jewelry. Refreshments will also be served.

A renowned Griot – storytellers of West African history – Diabate shares the oral history, music and song of his culture through the ngoni, a Malian traditional instrument and ancestor to the banjo. Having performed internationally and at venues such as the Smithsonian Institution and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Diabete has long explored the connection between America’s traditions and his own griot roots. His music embraces the traditions of the griot, and the sounds he discovered in America. His collaboration with banjo player Bob Carlin in 2007, “From Mali to America,” led to a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional World Music Album.

Diabete and his band will conclude the week with a concert on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 5:30 p.m., in the Memorial Center’s Young Main Lounge. The event will also include African food and entertainment by the African Students Association (ASA).

All events are free and open to the public. The events are sponsored by International Studies (African Studies Program), ASA, The Sociology and Anthropology Department, The School of Music, and the School of Art.

By Vi Kakares ’20