BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The loud screams of people riding the Mall of America’s roller coasters were almost inaudible as Africans danced and drummed at the mall’s rotunda to celebrate African Day.
The celebration was the last day of the recently-concluded Pan African Trade and Investment Summit, which started on Oct. 4 at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affair. The summit presented an opportunity for Minnesotan companies to learn about the growing African economy and the numerous opportunities for investment.
Saturday’s event celebrated African culture by showcasing various aspects ranging from fashion, to art and crafts, to music and dance. Roxane Battle, a former news anchor with Minnesotan local television station KARE 11, was the MC of the historical African Day. Battle marveled at the energy of the participants and attendants.
“This is marvelous, there were three tiers of people watching the African culture exposed to everyone,” Battle said.
While many people came to the mall specifically for the event, the festivities caught the attention of hundreds of shoppers who streamed by. Many of them watched from the upper levels of the mall. Holly Anderson was one such shopper. Anderson lived in Kenya for a year and was wearing a Kenyan T-shirt when she coincidentally came across the celebrations.
“It (African Day) made me miss Kenya,” Anderson said.
Abiola Lepe mesmerized the audience with her eloquence in prose. Reciting a poem on her identity as an individual, and then as an Nigerian woman living in the United States, Lepe demonstrated the perseverance of an African woman living in a new land and facing her challenges head on.
“I am a huge fan of Africans getting together,” she said after her performance.
Fashion designer Nyamal Both had a great opportunity to showcase her innovative and vibrant creations. A fusion of African fabric and style, Both’s design offers a contemporary style to Africans and non-Africans as well. Her use of color, an African design characteristic made her clothes striking and appealing.
Many people interviewed after the fashion show commended Both for using African models representing the full spectrum of African women body types with different shades of brown.
“Extremely innovative, bold and daring,” said Norine Riziki.
Nyapai Kek and Earl Lovelace, both models at the fashion show were delighted to wear Both’s clothes and to showcase her art to the rest of Minnesota.
“I am glad we had an opportunity to give a positive perspective on Africa and Africans,” said Lovelace.
A dance troupe comprising of three young African college students – Ugandan cousins, Samali and Diana Senyana, and Congolese Lidia – entertained with dances from their countries. Their style led them to call their group CU, and abbreviation of Congo and Uganda.
There was more dancing with International dance troupe – Jabali Afrika. Originally from Kenya, Jabali Afrika prides itself in performing African music and presenting it as an art, said Victor Savani, one of the band members.
Karen Sorbo, a professional auctioneer, said she had been looking forward to the event.
“I have always supported the African community,” Sorbo said. “African music and dance, culture has always been in my heart, so my heart gravitated towards this event.”
But entertainment was not the only feature of the African culture on display. Several curio vendors set up camp at the mall, showcasing and selling African arts and crafts. From jewelry to wood carvings, everything was reminiscent of a rich African culture. Other table stands included information on tourist destinations and Books for Africa, an organization that donates and ships books to Africa. A big screen television showed tourist attractions in Kenya.