Taste of Africa Draws Large Crowds

The Whitman African Student Association (WASA) put together delectable African cuisine as well as a mesmerizing show featuring a traditional Ghanian dance performance, African music, a recitation of African poetry, and a fashion show.


Marra Clay

Photo by Marra Clay

Emma Cooper, Staff Writer

While a sunny Saturday evening usually brings Whitman students into the great outdoors, the Taste of Africa event brought many Whitman students indoors to experience aspects of the exciting and wonderful culture of Africa.

This Taste of Africa was the fourth biannual event. The Whitman African Student Association (WASA) put together delectable African cuisine, as well as a mesmerizing show featuring a traditional Ghanian dance performance, African music, a recitation of African poetry and a fashion show. Because the food was prepared by Bon Appétit, under the WASA member Laurinda Nyarko’s careful eye, the African cuisine could be enjoyed in bigger quantities than in events past. WASA members Johanna Au and Nyarko opened up the show with a spectacular Ghanian dance in traditional African clothes.

The collection was designed by Nanie Memeh who was born in Brooklyn but raised in Nigeria and is a Goodwill Ambassador, as well as 2013 Miss Face of Africa USA. Memeh captured the audience’s attention with her dynamic and charismatic introduction to her collection, energizing the crowd for the spectacular fashion show.

International Student, Scholar Advisor of the Intercultural Center and Staff Advisor for WASA Kyle Martz mentioned the modernity that this Taste of Africa fashion show brings to the table. By fusing traditional styles of African clothes with modern designs, the fashion show brings a Taste of Africa into modern fashion.

IMG_4509WEBMarra Clay

“I hope that they get to see a little bit about how African culture is manifesting in the U.S. today, that’s more of the fashion show where we’ll see more traditional fashion up to more modern fashion from a Seattle-based designer. My hope is that people can get a little bit to know about various African cultures a little bit more in an accurate and current manner,” Martz said.

First-year Dorothy Mukasa, a member of WASA, emphasized her enthusiasm in planning this event for the Whitman community. Mukasa explained that the “Taste of Africa” event is a way to breakaway from the stereotype that Africa is only an impoverished continent and show people the depth and complexity of African culture.

“Many of the members in WASA identify with…a specific country in Africa and know it’s not just a ‘poor’ continent; we really felt the need to show others the greatness that can come from Africa,” Mukasa said.

By expanding the Taste of Africa event from only tasting African cuisine to showcasing other elements of African culture, WASA expand the Whitman community’s view on the culture of Africa.

“We wanted to show that there is a great diversity among the continent, you can’t fit the whole continent into a box or mistake it as one country–it’s enormous–and through different forms of art, music and food, we really wanted to show case the variety and uniqueness of the continent,” Mukasa said.

Martz took a peripheral role in the event to truly let the Taste of Africa be a labor of love from the members of WASA. Martz underscored the importance of the event and what he hoped the community would take away from the Taste of Africa.

“I hope that people do get to see more of the variety and an accurate picture of what is considered quality African cuisine in different regions and different nations-states,” Martz said.

Showcasing the fusion of traditional styles of African clothing into modern clothing, the fashion show brought the crowd together to cheer on their fellow classmates as they dominated the catwalk. First-year Nina Sharp, an attendee of the Taste of Africa event, expressed her great  admiration for her favorite aspect of the event: the fashion show.

Photo by Marra Clay
Marra Clay

“The fashion show. Oh my gosh, it was amazing. I thought it was really awesome that WASA brought in a fashion designer from Seattle and showcased all these designs,” Sharp said.

WASA brought Memeh as a part of the event to showcase the richness of African culture. In regards to why WASA specifcally chose to bring the fashion designer Memeh, Mukasa exalted Memeh’s representation of what it means to be African.

“[Memeh] is well versed in showing the continent of Africa not as a poor, developing country, but as a rich, cultured and growing area! As a fashion designer she has been able to represent what great things can be able to come from an African country.”