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Many months of preparation lie behind the curtain in a performance that soulfully plunges within the heart of African culture. On March 19, the McMaster African Students Association hosted their annual Afrofest theatrical production at the McIntyre Performing Arts Centre at Mohawk College.
This year’s production “Afrofest 2016: The Reckoning” serves as the third independent segment of a trilogy of shows. MacAfricans previously staged The Revolution in 2014 and Resilience in 2015. The story centres around the lives of two brothers from conflicting tribes, yet raised by a single father. With war presiding between the oppressive Brata people and the rebel Tsuli people, a muddled dilemma emanates.
“We want to be a club that gives back to the community and the people who make us who we really are.”
Oluseye Oduyale, Vice-President of MacAfricans and Biochemistry student at McMaster, shares the inspiration behind the performance held on Saturday. “The concept of The Reckoning was to show that there is a balance in the world — chaos and order, good and evil, just two different perspectives on life. Neither of them are necessarily wrong, but they need to co-exist in an [equilibrium].”
The premise of the Reckoning parallels the Rwandan genocide and the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The themes extrapolated from the performance bring forth commentary on the consequences of terrorism and xenophobia.
In past years, Afrofest has also addressed topics ranging from social injustice, to corruption, to human trafficking. “We really tried to bring up current affairs and get people thinking about issues specifically pertaining to continental Africa and to raise awareness as a whole,” Oduyale added.
Afrofest also aimed to showcase the richness of African culture, done by the exhibition of dancing, singing and poetry weaved into the performance.
The proceeds from the Afrofest show goes into a $25,000 scholarship fund for African students at McMaster University. “We wanted to support African students who are coming into McMaster, and it gives Africans an incentive to come to university,” said MacAfricans club President Akinjisola Akinkugbe. The fund will be used to carry forth an annual $5,000 scholarship.
Primarily executed through the annual Afrofest shows, the McMaster African Students Association reaches out to educate, engage and entertain the McMaster student community in affairs and topics relevant to Africa and Africans in the diaspora.
“[MacAfricans’] number one priority is to educate people about Africa and to break the stereotypes that people have about Africa,” noted Akinkugke. Additionally, there is the concern of the underhand stigmas surrounding international students here at McMaster, for instance the assumption that “African students are unable to speak English.”
Another assumption made by many is the matter of club exclusivity, “People always think that you have to be African in order to be part of the club. That is not true. You just have to be one that appreciates culture and diversity and breaking these barriers,” expressed Oduyale.
“Over the years, we want to be a club that is an empowerment club. We want to be a club that gives back to the community and the people who make us who we really are.”
Photo Credit: Nelson Nwogu