18th Annual Celebration of African Cultures

14 JANUARY 2007, PHILADELPHIA, PA—Music and dance of Africa and the African diaspora, storytelling, arts and crafts, culture and cuisine—it all comes together at the 18th annual Celebration of African Cultures Saturday, 17 February  from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. throughout the galleries of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The event, an annual extravaganza, is FREE with Museum admission donation ($8 for adults; $5 students and senior citizens; free for Museum members, children under 6, and PENNcard holders).

Music, dance, drumming and pageantry are always a major part of this dynamic celebration. New this year, the Kergiema National Dance Theatre offers a 15-person dance drama featuring folk music and dance from Liberia (11:30-12:30, Harrison Auditorium). “Kergiema” means unity dance, and the mission of this company is to preserve the traditional cultural practices of Liberia.

The Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble, a celebrated local troupe that has performed around the country, offers two high-energy programs in the Harrison Auditorium: a West African drum and dancing performance (1:30 p.m.), and the event's grand finale performance, with added masquerades, acrobatics and an ensemble of more than 30 performers (beginning at 3:15 p.m.). Pasha the stilt-walker from the Ensemble roams among the visitors in the afternoon. Tradition has it that the stilt walker's identity must remain a mystery--the Ensemble will only say that Pasha is a fourth degree master black belt and a world karate champion!

New this year, area members of ASCAB Capoeira (the American Society of Capoeria and Arts from Brazil) offer a demonstration of Capoeira (2:30 to 3:15 p.m., 3rd floor). A centuries-old Brazilian cultural tradition first practiced by African slaves in Brazil at least 400 years ago, capoeria is an artful sport described as a cross between a fight and a dance, accompanied by singing, clapping, and traditional instruments.

Mshindi Ngoma (pronounced Mm-Shin-dee Nn-go-mah), a Philadelphia-based Pan African Drum Ensemble, performs (1:00 to 1:30 p.m., Upper Egyptian gallery). The three drummers of Mshindi Ngoma play a collection of thirty percussion instruments, including drums, bells and an assortment of traditional percussions from the African diaspora.

The Women’s Sekere Ensemble, a group of female percussionists led by Omomola Iyabunmi, introduces visitors to the rhythms and tones of the sekere, a traditional percussion instrument of Nigeria made from intricately beaded gourds (Pepper Gallery, 12:00 to 12:30 and 2:15 to 3:00 p.m.).

For those ready to participate, the day features dancing workshops. Kenny J offers an introductory R & B line dancing class (11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Upper Egyptian Gallery), a sampling of dance in the African-American tradition. The performer/instructor is a lead dancer with the Dave Bush Performers, a Philadelphia-based R&B line dancing group, and founder of Sophisticated Funk, a competitive line dance group. Performance artist and dance instructor Chioma Acholonu offers a traditional Nigerian dance workshop, introducing dances from the Igbo-speaking region of Nigeria (1:45 to 2:30 p.m., Upper Egyptian gallery).

Storytelling is a finely-honed tradition in many African cultures as well as the African American tradition, and Penn Museum's celebration features two renowned storytellers. Queen Nur, national storytelling and teaching artist, with percussionist Yomi Jojolu, offers two performances entitled "The Games We Play: Stories, Rhythms, and Rhymes in the Oral Tradition," (11:00 to 11:45 a.m. and 1:00-1:45 p.m., Nevil Classroom). Momma Sandi, a member of the National Association of African American Storytellers, serves up stories, rich with songs, movement and rhythm (12:45 to 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 t o 2:45 p.m., Lower Egyptian Gallery).

The rich cultural and crafts traditions of Africa are explored in talks. Rashida Watson, owner of The Silk Tent, a mail-order distributor of international gifts, speaks on "The Symbolic Language of Adinkra: Past and Present" (11:00 to 11:30 a.m., Rainey Auditorium). Her presentation includes examples of Ghanaian Adinkra symbols in their historical context in tapestries to their expanded translation in today's artifacts, jewelry, and everyday objects. Fiber artist Betty Leacraft offers a slide presentation, "An Artist Experiences Gullah Culture," (1:00 to 2:00 p.m., Rainey Auditorium ) She discusses her visit to the OYO-TUNJI African Village in Sheldon, South Carolina, and a four-month stay on St. Helena Island, South Carolina, studying with master hand dyers and batik artists.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum’s African Gallery features more than 300 objects from cultures throughout the continent, including renowned bronzes from the former Kingdom of Benin in Nigeria, dramatic masks, a wide range of objects used for everyday living, and a variety of musical instruments. Long-time Penn Museum docent Mawusi Renee Simmons presents "African Drums, Dance and Ritual," a tour of the African gallery's musical instruments (1:30 to 2:00 p.m. ). In addition to the historical and cultural material of the African gallery, the Museum features famous galleries of ancient Egyptian art and artifacts—including the special exhibition, “Amarna, Ancient Egypt’s Place in the Sun,” and the ever-popular exhibition "The Egyptian Mummy: Secrets and Science."

Throughout the afternoon in the Museum’s Chinese Rotunda, visitors can learn to play the ancient African game of Mancala and create their own Mancala boards at a special craft table. The Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library joins in the celebration, with a browsing table of books on Africa and African culture. Philadelphia kids (and adults) can get inspired, and sign up for a library card! Artists from Family Fun Entertainment offer young visitors the chance to have their faces painted with African animal motifs. A craft table features mask making and coloring for young children.

Also in the Chinese Rotunda, look for a mini-African marketplace. From noon until 4:00 p.m. Rashida Watson from The Silk Tent displays African textiles, jewelry and artifacts available for purchase. The Museum's Shops set up a wide variety of African masks, arts, crafts, games and jewelry, books and more on special display and sale.

There's a taste of Africa included in the day, as the Museum Cafe serves up African menu items—including its ever-popular African peanut chicken soup— as well as traditional fare, all on sale through 3:30 p.m.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, located at 3260 South Streets on the Penn campus in Philadelphia, is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage. For general information, visitors may call (215) 898-4000, or visit the Museum’s award-winning website at http://www.penn.museum.


3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-4000


Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
First Wednesdays: 10:00am - 8:00pm
Monday: CLOSED


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