TAIPEI, Taiwan– Elements of African culture were showcased on Saturday as students from the continent hosted the first ever African Cultural night at the National Taiwan University here.
“This is the night I have had in mind for a long time. I couldn’t do it, but here we have so many African students contributing to this,” Chan-Shen J. Yen, Secretary General of the Forum on African Studies in Taiwan said at the event.
Yen, a professor at the National Cheng-Chi University Institute of International Affairs, said that the Taiwanese education system provides limited information about Africa.
He said the event was an opportunity for African students to showcase their culture and for Taiwanese to learn about the continent.
“Because, it is through understanding that we will not have a negative type of stereotype or any kind of myth about Africa. I think we can learn more about African music, African theatre, African literature, African art,” Yen said.
“And that’s why years ago former president of South Africa [Thabo] Mbeki talked about an African renaissance. The time that you can glimpse back to the period of time when you have pride in your culture,” he said.
Yen’s interest in Africa was aroused when as a child a relative in the Taiwan foreign service sent him stamps from African countries.
He echoed sentiments by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative who said, “I think that in the future, more Taiwanese, young people in particular, will appreciate the experience, diversity and excitement that African cultures bring to you.”
In additions to speeches from African and Taiwanese dignitaries, the event included a performance of the Ingoma dance from Swaziland, the Ussua dance from São Tomé and Príncipe, and a drum and dance portrayal from The Gambia. There was also drumming by Pan Africana — a cultural troupe in Taipei, a video presentation, a fashion display, and African food.
Yusapha Touray, a civil activist from The Gambia delivered a speech titled “Reflections on Africa” in which he discussed some of the historical, psychological, socio-political, and socio-economic factors that has contributed to what Africa is today.
Gambian Ambassador to Taipei, Mowdo Juwara said that Africa was going through “dramatic changes including cultural awakening” and hence the event was a timely one.
“We all need to promote our African culture and to take it into account in our development programmes,” he said.
He spoke of the African Cultural Charter adopted by African leaders in 1976 at the level of the African Union.
He said the Charter provided the framework for promotion of African cultural riches and showed the level of interest and commitment of African leaders to strengthening the cultural diversity of Africa.
“And the African Union commissioner is continuing in the proud tradition of promoting cultural integration and strongly supports pan-Africana initiatives.”
He said the first pan-Africana cultural festival in Nigeria in July 1969 “was not only an event for cultural exchange but also an opportunity for continental integration and social interaction”.
Similar events have taken places in various African countries and have brought people together and showcased their diverse cultural riches, the ambassador said.
“Africa has tremendous material, spiritual and cultural resources. The African cultural industry must serve as an important engine for socio-economic development. Our culture also has an important role to play in our search for African unity, reconciliation and common humanity.
“… Culture and art are at the heart of our heritage, our democracy, our development and our humanity,” he added as he urged all African to serve as cultural ambassadors.
Edward Goka, chairman of the committee that organised African Cultural Night, told I Witness-News the event was organised to share African culture with the Taiwanese people.
“…People have come and they are saying they are happy with the event so I think the objective has been achieved. I think they have learnt something from it,” he said.
Goka said the committee hoped to form an association of African students in Taiwan with the view to having its executive making African Cultural Night an annual event.
Tasheka Haynes from St. Vincent and the Grenadines said they event was “okay but there was just too much talking and not enough dancing, not enough African vibes”.
“I thought there would be more African dances and stuff like that. Am disappointing in that area, but it was okay; for a first try it was alright.”
Meanwhile, Ayrat Malovski of Russia was “overwhelmed” by what he saw.
“It was really good — dancing, singing. I don’t know what to say. It was really good. I don’t know much about Africa and the culture and what I have seen today it was so useful, [informative]. A lot of the things I have seen today I have seen it for the first time. I have never seen this kind of thing before; I have never heard the songs.”
See more photos from the African Cultural Night here.