20th Annual Celebration of African Cultures Offers Music, Dance, Storytelling, Talks, Games and More at the University of Pennsylvania Museum

21 FEBRUARY 2009, PHILADELPHIA, PA—Music and dance of Africa, storytelling, arts and crafts, gallery tours, culture and cuisine—it all comes together at the 20th annual Celebration of African Cultures Saturday, February 21, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. throughout the galleries of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The event is FREE with Museum admission donation ($10 for adults; $7 for seniors, 65 and above; $6 for students and children 6-17; free for Museum members, children under 6, and PENNcard holders).

This year’s extravaganza offers a special spotlight on the famous Benin culture of Nigeria, featured in the exhibition IYARE: Splendor and Tension In Benin’s Palace Theatre, on view now through March 1. With nearly 100 objects from the Museum’s world renowned collection of cast bronzes, carved ivories and wooden artifacts, 16th to the 21st centuries, IYARE! (which translated, means “May you come and go safely!”) illuminates the many activities—cultural, religious, political and intensely social—that make up the experience of palace life for the Edo people of Benin.

Special Benin activities for the day include a talk, “Under the Sea and On the Throne: Olokun and the Fish-Legged King,” by curator and Benin expert Kathy Curnow, offered at 11:30 a.m., as well as Benin storytelling, games, and a related craft activity for the family. Renowned storyteller Queen Nur and drummer Yomi Awodesu serve up traditional Benin stories, with songs, movement and rhythm (2:45 to 3:15 p.m., Lower Egyptian Gallery). Up in the Chinese Rotunda, visitors can learn to play the ancient Benin game of Ise and create their own Ise boards. Also known in Africa as Mankala, Ise is an ancient game of strategy. A craft table features Benin mask making and coloring for families and young children.

The annual celebration is always rich with great music and dance, and this year is no exception: visitors will have an opportunity to see performances by the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble (providing the grand finale), as well as the Habiba Studio, Women’s Sekere Ensemble, Harambee Drum Ensemble and Harambee Choral Ensemble.

The Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble, a celebrated local troupe that has performed around the country, offers the event's grande finale: a high-energy program with West African drumming and dancing, acrobatics and a collection of more than 35 performers (Harrison Auditorium, 3:15 p.m.). The Ensemble’s unique and dynamic dance movement, paired with authentic new costumes, preserves and conveys the spectacular histories and stories rooted in African culture. The kora and balaphone, traditional African instruments brought back from past trips to Guinea and Gambia, will be featured. Prior to the finale, Pasha, the stilt-walker from the Ensemble, may be seen roaming 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 fifth degree master black belt and a world karate champion!

For the rhythmically inclined, the Habiba Studio’s North African dance performance and workshop is a must do. Visitors watch as the Habiba Dance Ensemble performs folkloric Tunisian and Moroccan dances representing a crossroads of Arab, Berber and African cultures and incorporating a rhythmic sharp twisting technique of the hips. Then they can try the dances themselves (11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and 1:00 to 1:30 p.m., Upper Egyptian Gallery)!

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 p.m. and 2:15 to 2:45 p.m.).

The Harambee Drum Ensemble, part of a collection of African heritage genre groups in the World African Cultural Ensemble (W.A.C.E.), is a high-energy group of fifteen young musicians (ages 5 to 14), attendees of the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School of West Philadelphia. The musicians, led by Baba Jua Fluellen and Baba Kala Jojo, weave various African and African American rhythms that speak to African culture and values (Rainey Auditorium, 1:30 & 2:45 p.m.).

The Harambee Choral Ensemble, performing alongside the Harambee Drum Ensemble, consists of 25 ensemble members ages eight to 14-years-old, singing alongside their “walimu”— the kiswahili word for teachers. Ed Smith conducts the choir through a repertoire of music including traditional African, African American, contemporary theater, and hip hop songs (Rainey Auditorium, 1:30 & 2:45 p.m.).

Evocative storytellers Queen Nur and Kala Jojo offer expressive songs and symbolic games born of African heritage and given in the oral tradition, encouraging audience participation. Nur and Jojo’s performance has storytelling at its core but also employs games, songs, ring play and hand jives to tell stories which have been passed down from generation to generation. In addition to their Benin storytelling at 2:45, they offer an earlier performance of other African tales (12:30 to 1:00 p.m., Lower Egyptian Gallery).

Rashida Watson, owner of The Silk Tent, a mail-order distributor of international gifts, offers a show-and-tell talk on "Weaves, Dyes, Embroidery and More: Examples of Cloth and Clothing From Africa.” Ms. Watson displays a variety of cloth pieces elaborately decorated which include vests and crowns from West Africa, bark cloth from the Mbuti Tribe in the Republic of the Congo, and ceremonial weavings, tie dye and beadwork incorporated into special items of clothing. Cloth, wearable pieces and jewelry are on sale after the talk (11:00 to 11:30 a.m., Rainey Auditorium).

Penn Museum’s African Gallery features more than 300 objects from cultures throughout the continent, including dramatic masks, gold weights, a wide range of objects used for everyday living, and a variety of musical instruments. Penn Museum docent Mawusi Renee Simmons presents "African Drums, Dance, and Ritual," a tour of the African gallery's musical instruments (African Gallery, 1:30 p.m.).

A mini-African marketplace is set up in the Chinese Rotunda. 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, jewelry, books and more.

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 available for purchase through 3:30 p.m.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology 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.

The Museum is located at 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays and holidays. Museum admission donation is $10 adults; $7 senior citizens, $6 students with ID; free to Museum members, children under 6, and University of Pennsylvania staff, students, and faculty with a PENNcard. For general information call (215) 898-4000, or visit the Museum's website at http://penn.museum.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS AT A GLANCE

11:00-11:30 - "Weaves, Dyes, Embroidery and More: Examples of Cloth and Clothing From Africa" Rashida Watson, Rainey Auditorium
11:30 - IYARE! Curator’s Talk: "Under the Sea and On the Throne: Olokun and the Fish-Legged King"
1:30 - African Gallery Tour: "African Drums, Dance, and Ritual", African Gallery
11:45-12:15 - North African Dance Performance and Workshop by the Habiba Studio, Upper Egyptian Gallery
12:00-12:30 - Women's Sekere Ensemble, Pepper Gallery
12:30-1:00 - Games Workshop - Queen Nur and Kala Jojo, Lower Egyptian Gallery
1:00-1:30 - North African Dance Performance and Workshop by the Habiba Studio, Upper Egyptian Gallery
1:30-2:30 - Harambee Drum Ensemble and Choral Ensemble, Rainey Auditorium
2:15-2:45 - Women's Sekere Ensemble, Pepper Gallery
2:45-3:45 - Harambee Drum Ensemble and Choral Ensemble, Rainey Auditorium
2:45-3:15 - Storytelling with Queen Nur and Yomi Awodesu, Lower Egyptian Gallery
3:15-4:00 - Dance Finale - Universal African Dance & Drum Ensemble, Harrison Auditorium

In the Chinese Rotunda - Ongoing
Ise Area for demonstration and play (and make your own)
Craft tables: Benin mask making and coloring
Breaking Ground: information table
Marketplace: The Silk Tent - African cloth, clothing, and artifacts
Museum Shops - African instruments, crafts, toys, books, more

In the Café - 10:00-3:30 African and international menu items for purchase

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.

MUSEUM LOCATION

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

MUSEUM HOURS

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

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