A Day in Africa explores African art, music and pop culture

Students from across Wisconsin gained new perspectives on Africa through cinema, art, music and literature at the 2017 A Day in Africa event on April 24 at Union South. A Day in Africa, which has been organized by UW–Madison’s African Studies Program since 2012, gives high schoolers the opportunity to explore the cultures and languages of Africa.

Gregory Stewart and class from Whitewater High School
Gregory Stewart, teacher at Whitewater High School, brought his AP human geography class to A Day in Africa. “A lot of what we’re discussing in class — gender, age, clothing culture, language and dialect — are topics covered today. It is a great fit for our class.”

This year’s program, which centered on African pop culture, featured a showing of the Kenyan dystopian short film, Pumzi; sessions on topics ranging from Zulu chess and the “hustler” lifestyle in Kenya to political cartoons and Nigerian marriage values; and a performance by Madison Afro-Pop band, Kikeh Mato.

David Bresnahan, Ph.D student in African history and lead organizer for A Day in Africa, said that the event was just one of the ways in which the African Studies Program can create educational opportunities and share its expertise with students throughout the state.

Students in Union South
Students from across Wisconsin packed The Marquee at Union South for A Day in Africa.

“A Day in Africa is an opportunity for students to access stories, experiences, and perspectives that they don’t always get in their normal school curriculum,” Bresnahan said. “As a National Resource Center, we have tremendous resources and expertise on Africa.”

According to Aleia McCord, associate director of African Studies Program, the event was an opportunity for the almost 300 students and teachers attending to gain a global mindset and challenge perceptions on life in different regions of the African continent.

“The popular media tends to tell stories about Africa that focus exclusively on doom and gloom—poverty, instability and exploitation,” McCord said. “While many countries across the continent certainly face serious challenges, sometimes these stories make us forget that Africa is also home to imaginative artists, insightful writers, and cutting-edge filmmakers who inspire us with their creativity and storytelling. That’s why we featured speakers who could make the popular music, fashion, film, and culture of Africa come alive for students and teachers from across the state.”

Kikeh Mato
A Day in Africa wrapped up with a performance by Madison Afro-Pop band, Kikeh Mato.

McCord also noted that she was pleased that the event drew interest from communities across the state and provided a venue to learn about the diversity and African culture already rooted in Wisconsin.

“I was particularly glad to see students from our rural communities having the opportunity to meet fellow Wisconsinites whose families come from Africa,” McCord said. “It was inspiring to see Wisconsin’s high school students teach each other about the rich diversity we have here in our own state.”