Before the festivities began, a moment of silence was dedicated to Nelson Mandela.
A series of skits were performed throughout, only interrupted by music and dance gigs and a fashion show. The skits told a story of a young interracial couple who make a journey to the woman’s home country of Zimalia where she plans to introduce her fiancé to her family. The skits, while being funny and endearing, also embody this year’s theme – Kusafiri Nyumbani, which means “traveling home” in Swahili, according to Valentina Ndibalema, Co-Representative of Penn State African Student Association.
Dance troupe Afrique Fusion performed traditional dances of Senegal and Guinea. The members of Philadelphia-based Kulu Mele drummed and sang while three dancers twirled with their wing-like sleeves. Four-man team UnAfrikShowDem charmed the crowd with their smooth footwork.
The fashion show was filled with vibrant colors and bold prints. The mermaid silhouette seemed to dominate the runway as well as puffy sleeves and scroll prints.
For the closing act, Nigerian-American R&B singer Banky W. stole the hearts of hundreds of female fans, who flocked to the stage, with mellow, Drake-esque love songs.
Spectator Rawda Al-Wadhahi says it is her first time attending Touch of Africa. “The different dances, the clothes they wear… I think they did a good job,” Al-Wadhahi, who has a friend from Cameroon, says. “My friend was involved in a dance performance last year. He told me it’s a great [event].”
Lucy Scott, of Sierra Leonean and Nigerian heritage, says she came “mostly for the food.” The transfer student from Greater Allegheny says her friends are in the fashion show.
“It’s not easy to see other cultures in America,” says Young Chang, who is currently taking an African American studies class. “[This] is interesting,” he says. Chang says he likes the music.
Eden Araya, from Eritrea, says her favorite act is the play. She says her friend plays a lead role. “It’s nice to be able to wear my [country’s] traditional clothes,” Araya says, pointing at her long white gown with floral embroidery.
Cathryn Barclay says she has been a fan of Banky W. for about four years. “He is a beautiful, soulful singer,” Barclay, whose favorite Banky song is “Good Good Loving,” says. “I’m excited. He rarely comes to Pennsylvania.”
Photos by Jessi Korch