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The Cuisine Expo celebrates African Culture

Sierra Cotton, Staff Reporter

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When I heard that Case Western Reserve University’s African Students Association (ASA) was hosting The Cuisine Expo, I knew that it was an event I had to attend, as the opportunity to experience a diverse cultural event at CWRU was one I couldn’t pass up. Coming into the event, I expected an evening of eating delicious, traditional African food. I enjoyed that and much more.

The Cuisine Expo is an annual event hosted by ASA, and this year it was held on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in The Spot. According to the group’s event coordinator, second-year student Esther Otasanya, the intentions of the event were to “show Case students some African cuisine and also network with some other African student organizations near us. We’ve held this event in previous years and didn’t want this year to be any different.”

When I arrived at 7:30 p.m., The Spot was packed, and the line for food was unbelievably long. I was surprised by the large turnout, and I wasn’t the only one. Ostasanya said, “The turnout was actually more than we expected, and from what we gathered, people really enjoyed themselves.”

After what seemed like a lifetime in the line, I was finally able to sit down and eat while listening to some modern African music. The wait was worth it. A wide variety of food was offered, from plantains to puff puffs to barbeque chicken, goat and pepper soup. There was something that everyone could enjoy, even if they had never tried traditional African food before. All the food was excellently flavored and cooked just right. The students from ASA did an excellent job preparing the food and I thank them for sharing it with the rest of us.

In addition to food and music from DJ Tatru, several dance teams performed from various universities in Ohio.

The first team that performed was Barefeet Dance Tribe from Kent State University, a “traditional and modern African dance group” whose “focus is to educate others about the African culture and its dance styles…” The team performed a medley with a “Wizard of Oz” theme. The moment a real dog came out as Toto, the crowd’s attention was captured. The group flowed well from one piece to the next, showcasing the talent of the group as a whole as well as that of each individual dancer. Each dancer brought their own unique style to their solos, and their presence filled the space.

Following Barefeet Dance Tribe was another group from Kent State: Asé Xpressions. Also based in “…traditional and modern African dance movements, as well as dance of the African diaspora. The focus of this group is to educate others about African culture and dance forms and have fun while doing so.” The start of their performance was full of energy that didn’t subside until they walked off stage. Their movements and choreography were almost completely in sync, as if the dancers were connected.

The next group was Royal Descendants from University of Akron, “a dancing group specializing in all sorts of dances with a huge African background.” The group came out playing Beyoncé’s “Formation,” though they didn’t actually dance to it. Their performance progressed with a mix of African music and hip hop, including songs such as Missy Elliott’s “WTF” and Rihanna’s “Work.” Their performance was fierce, but there were issues with the choreography, and the dancing was not all together. They all looked like they were having a lot of fun, though, and in the end, they brought energy and their best.

The dance performances ended with CWRU’s own Cheza Nzuri Dance Team. I was anticipating this performance the most, as I saw the team perform at ASA’s Nigerian Independence Day event and wanted to see how they have progressed since then. Watching them perform, I couldn’t help but feel proud and happy for them. The group has improved so much and clearly danced their best. The choreography, energy, facial expressions and just overall presence was captivating. The choreography was intense and the dancers seemed to have a feel for the music and moves, allowing more movement and energy.

Following the dance performances was an after party that was held until midnight, allowing CWRU students and community members to mingle and enjoy the music.

Overall, I thought the event was a display of how much fun CWRU’s cultural events can be, and it showcased African culture well. When asked how she thought the event went, Otasanya said, “The event ran smoothly with everyone who showed up on time for dinner to get food, the performances were great and the after party was an experience for many people.”

As for her favorite part of the event, she said, “Cheza’s performance of course.” I couldn’t agree more.

ASA’s next event is their movie night, which takes place on Dec. 3, and I encourage everyone to attend. These events are an experience for everyone at CWRU to partake in, as they provide a fun opportunity to learn about other cultures.

Event: The Cuisine Expo

Group: African Students Association

Where: The Spot

When: Saturday, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars