Taste of Africa Fundraiser
Sunday, I was running late as usual.... I picked up my granddaughter and her uncle, after stopping by the store for a card for Baba Yah Mz Jahi, Javad Jahi's father--today there was a celebration for Javad at East Side Cultural Center. The plan was to stop by after we left Habitot Children's Museum where A Taste of Africa was held. Well as we drove up 73rd to the highway, the traffic was as slow as cold molasses, so we got off the highway and so began a saga peppered with police shootouts and multiple gunshot wounded.
Early Sunday, morning on I-580 several highway patrol policemen were shot by a gunman who was wearing amour. He was shot and taken into custody--the freeway was closed until 3 PM. We ended up driving to Lake Merritt then over to Telegraph by way of Broadway. We passed a lovely mural of Oscar Grant on a building on Telegraph near 17th Street.
Once we got to Berkeley, we found parking nearby and then entered the building through the wrong entrance--Habitot is in the building where the Hall of Health either was or still is. There is also a movie theatre there and the entrance to a restaurant. After going downstairs to Habitot, we were directed to enter on the Kittridge side, up the stairs outside and around the building.
One of the first persons we met was a Masai warrior, Ken Ndegwa, complete with spear and shield. He stood on one foot as he explained to us what he did traditionally and then posed for a photo next to the mural of the African Village.
Habitot is really geared for the 2-5 year old set, so my seven year olds couldn't fit the astronaut costumes. They could climb in the rockets sleeping bunks, play in the grocery store, water works area and hang out in the reading room which they did.
When we arrived there was enough time for the kids to paint their faces and explore the creative play areas. We didn't go into the dining area for the games and other children's activities, so when my kids got hungry we joined other patrons in the theatre for the dance performances and fashion show, hosted by Annette with the young dancers led by choreographer Catherine, who also drummed and sang. The lovely models showcased the fashions of a fine designer (whose name I didn't catch) as the DJs spun a nice selection of African-Diaspora traditional and popular dance music.
At the end of the full program which closed with a wonderful performance by Julia and the Chinyakare Ensemble from Zimbabwe Dancers who in one dance called for rain. With huge balafons and drums the three women dancers, bells and shakers tied to their legs took their bowls from their heads and set them down before rising to their feet while the drummers and other musicians played.
Annette was a great host/emcee. She gave us history lessons as we enjoyed the performances. I hadn't known the Kenyan garments had wise saying included in the fabric designs. I am not sure if this is a Kenyan detail or if other African fashions include text. Pretty awesome!
The hostess also quizzed us on our Kiswahili and gave us many opportunities to practice out African calls--the high pitched songs of praise for performances and performers we appreciated. The models also wore face paint, which Annette said was not just decorative, but meant something--just as scarification means something too.
The next time you meet someone with markings ask them to tell you about it. Annette told us.
After a powerful opening movement, Julia and her daughter and other dancer, returned the bowls to their heads as the music shifted to another song and the women began to pour a little meal onto a mat and then sift it into a large bowl. Everyone really enjoyed Julia's company and the Jili la Watoto kids knew where Zimbabwe was geographically.
These were some sharp little kids.
The Kialili Dancers were not professional, but the adolescent girls had plenty heart as did the youngest dancers with Jili a La Watoto, who'd only been rehearsing for 4 weeks their teacher told me after the performance.
There was a silent auction, of whom I recognized the work of Githinji Wambire www.omiiroo.com. He was there with his son. Githinji's work is know for his African continents made out of wood scraps...often abstract, but certainly recognizable. These were smaller more affordable ones. I should have bid on a piece....I really liked the Chinua piece. Writer and scholar Chinua Achebe was housed in one of the dwelling there. The other artists were: Wawi Amasha www.mamiafrika.com, Sarah Kinuthia-Criswell www.furahachao.com.
The African Village Project needs $10,000 to build the exhibit which will stay at Habitot for 6-9 months before moving to other sites. For those interested in the African Village Project visit: www.jijilawatoto.com
Photos are of the dancers and patrons in the theatre. Seated in the space travel area is Brianna and Maurice along with a really kind man who helped Bree with her face painting. There are photos of Catherine Ndungu-Case and Annette Ruah co-founders of Jiji La Watoto, along with other supporters.
The children and I went down the street for an ice cream--everyone else seemed to have a similar idea. We then walked to Olone Park and then back to the car. The kids played at the entrance to UC Berkeley where there was a large sculpture that looked like an eyeball. We then walked back to the car not far away.