Although our campus is located in northeastern France, the African continent plays a big part in student culture, not only in the classroom but outside of it too. This influence couldn’t be more apparent from February 3-9 at ASPA’s annual “African Week.” 

To kick off the week, the association held a “Black and Gold African Wonders Gala.” According to association member Chiedza Banga, the “Black and Gold” theme was chosen as a tribute to “the color of [the association members’] skin and culture.” Association Co-President Arielle Nsunda-Katondua explained that the gala’s general aim was to get “people excited about [the week’s] upcoming events.”

“We want to show everybody the importance of African culture on this campus since this campus is home to both the American and African programs. [Our association] feels that sometimes the African aspect of our campus isn’t as well represented as it could be,” Nsunda-Katondua said.

To demonstrate this aspect at the gala, the Minanga Ma Nzambe (Stars of God) dance troupe performed various traditional Gabonese dances. After a 20-minute-long display, the performers invited students in the crowd to dance with them to teach them the culture’s dances.

Following this, EurAf singing group Elefunk performed three songs, including South African singer Tyra’s song “Sway.” This matched the rest of the evening’s playlist, which was created to feature Afro beats from various countries, mirroring the diversity of the countries that the association members are from. 

“We wanted to have a big variety of songs since [the gala] is meant to be a celebration of all of the countries that we have represented [on campus.] So, we took a while curating the playlist to feature all of our favorite kinds of African music,” Banga said.

The aim to accurately represent the diversity of Africa was seen throughout the rest of the week’s events. An example of this was through the workshops done with photographer Nizar Saleh on his work. ASPA Co-President Fatima Tobe believes it was one of the week’s biggest events.

“We tried to incorporate different aspects of Africa in our events. Our first conference was centered on the identity of the African diaspora living in France. We really tried to show [African people’s experiences] not only on the African continent but also throughout the world,” Tobe said. “Our workshops incorporated the craftsmanship of the Akan culture. Mr. Saleh allowed us to portray his photographs from which he draws inspiration from his Congolese spiritual heritage. It’s important for us to show the various aspects of Africa and not only portray it as a single block.”

ASPA additionally organized several conferences, sewing/art workshops with professionals, film screenings, Afro dance workshops, and an “ASPA Market” where food, art, books, and jewels were sold. 

While these events were numerous, ASPA’s status as a non-permanent bureau made the week’s events challenging to organize. But, determined to promote African cultures, the co-presidents explained that the team planned for several months, did all of the administrative tasks, and got funding via Sciences Po’s partners and the city of Reims.

For the interviewed association members, the work was worth it as they hope to keep up the representation of African culture in Reims. For Banga, the sole Anglophone ASPA member, this week was important to spread awareness about Africa to EURAM students.

“When I came in [to the association], I wanted to expand ASPA beyond just EurAf because often, many people who aren’t in EURAF might get left out [of Africa-related events],” Banga said. “I hope that by doing this, we can make people realize that they can appreciate Africa and its many cultures no matter where they’re from.”



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