CWRU ASA’s first “Naija Night” celebrates “Nigerian Independence Day”

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CWRU ASA’s first “Naija Night” celebrates “Nigerian Independence Day”

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Fifty-six years ago on Oct. 1, 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom. Today, “Nigerian Independence Day” is celebrated all over the world in honor of the liberation.

This year, the Case Western Reserve University African Student Association hosted its inaugural “Naija Night” in honor of the celebration at The Jolly Scholar on Saturday, Oct. 1. The event started at 10 p.m., but I arrived at about a quarter to 11 p.m., just as the event got into full swing.

Entering The Jolly, I noticed the moderately sized crowd congregated around the authentic Nigerian food right away. It was also clear that not everyone was a CWRU student. As second-year student Amanda Smith pointed out, “It was refreshing to see a student organization at Case have an event that brought people from other colleges in the Cleveland area together.”

Although no one was dancing at that moment, everyone seemed engrossed in conversation and their food, creating a nice atmosphere for mingling.

After a little while, everyone gathered in the Thwing Center’s atrium to watch Cheza Nzuri perform. According to second-year student Oluchi Onyeukwu, a member of the team, “Cheza Nzuri means beautiful dancer in Swahili, one of the many languages spoken in Africa.” The group is “the only all-female African dance team on campus to date” with a “mission to spread cultural diversity and inclusion through dance.”  

One of the performance’s strong suits was the choreography. It was clear that the choreography was well thought out and emphasized the group’s African culture. As of right now, the group “practices two times a week, Tuesdays from 8:30-10:30 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., with additional practices when necessary,” as well as the individuals practicing on their own according to Onyeukwu.

Despite the choreography, the performance lacked energy. It seemed like some of the dancers were too focused on making sure they performed the right moves instead of performing the moves and bringing the necessary energy. It was disappointing since African dance is typically full of energy and movement.

“Energy is something that definitely needs improvement,” Onyeukwu acknowledges. “At this point, some of us may be more focused on performing the right moves at the right time instead of making sure they have the right facials and rhythm. This is something each team member will have to internalize.”

Regarding the performance overall, Onyeukwu believes “as a group with only four returning members, Saturday’s performance went as expected, although I know we can do much better. I think the level that we are performing at is perfectly normal. I’m not at all saying that it is our best, but I think each individual must first become comfortable with themselves and their dancing style and bring that to the larger group dynamic and energy.”

I agree with Onyeukwu. Having seen the group perform last year, I know the group can do better. The group just needs to practice more, and I am sure by their next performance, they will bring back the energy they lacked and impress us all.

After Cheza Nzuri performed, the festivities moved back to The Jolly, which is when all of the problems started. For some reason, the music was not functioning as it had been before the performance, but instead played at a low volume barely audible, making dancing to it difficult. This unfortunately led to quite a few people leaving the event. In the spirit of CWRU, the remaining people formed a dance circle and awkwardly danced along with the technical difficulties. After quite some time, when the music problems finally seemed to be sorted out, the energy in the room increased with the laughter and dancing.

The music being played was modern Nigerian music, and even those not Nigerian were still able to appreciate it. The only hiccup was the DJ’s inability to transition between songs, leading to awkward pauses and moments when there was no dancing.

Overall the event itself was okay, but that was to be expected as this was the first of its kind. The temporary music problem did hinder the fun, but once it was solved, things definitely picked back up. Outside of the music and performance, the authentic food was great, and it was nice seeing a diverse crowd celebrate this holiday.

Onyeukwu agrees, believing “the event went well given the circumstances. Case has a small African-American population, let alone African population, so the turnout of CWRU students was expected. Being that Case is all about diversity, I was hoping there would have been more efforts into getting other groups on campus and even outside our campus to attend. With more proactivity and persistence, I have great hopes for bigger and better celebrations in the future.”

Event: Naija Night

Group: African Student Association

When: Saturday Oct. 1, 10 p.m.–2 a.m.

Where: The Jolly Scholar

Rating: 3/5 Stars