Traditional African music and dance, an African Jazz Connection workshop, dance and drumming workshops, puppetry, storytelling, an African marketplace, art-making, games, gallery tours, film, even African animal yoga for children—it all comes alive at the Penn Museum’s 29th annual Celebration of African Cultures on Saturday, February 24, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The celebration, presented in the Museum’s Africa galleries and around the Museum, is free with Museum admission.
Music and Dance of the African Diaspora
This year’s Celebration offers lots of opportunity to enjoy music and dance performances and to join in.
Culture Shock, a multicultural dance group affiliated with the University of the Sciences’ International Society, presents traditional dances from East and West Africa, with hints of Caribbean influence. The Women’s Sekere Ensemble percussionists, led by Omomola Iyabumni, bring the rhythms and tones of the sekere, a traditional Nigerian percussion instrument made from intricately beaded gourds, into the galleries.
Guests of all ages are encouraged to get involved at an African Dance Workshop, and a Drum Workshop, both offered by the Dunya Performing Arts Company. The Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble offers the African-Jazz Connection performance and workshop. The ensemble demonstrates how various rhythms and “types” of jazz compare to—and sometimes have originated with—multi-faceted beats and rhythmic syncopations from Africa.
African Rhythms, a student-led African drum and dance troupe at the University of Pennsylvania, closes out the day’s performances, offering dances from West Africa and the African diaspora, including the Caribbean and South America.
Stories, Puppets and Games, Oh My!
There is much for the young and the young at heart to enjoy. Everyone is invited to join Queen Nur, storyteller supreme, for a fun and interactive storytelling session in celebration of voices of courage. The Catskill Puppet Theater, Inc., offers “The Lion’s Whiskers,” a musical adaptation of a traditional Ethiopian folktale. Meet a lion, two giraffes, a camel, a cast of five human characters and some hyena shadow puppets, on hand to tell the tale! Children can try some new poses at a short African Animal Yoga session, too!
Art and crafting opportunities are available for all ages throughout the day. The Black Artists Collective offers a station where guests can make African inspired masks and jewelry. Ethiopian-born artist Bole Lig invites guests to create maps of Africa, as well as art inspired by iconic monuments from the continent.
Game lovers can stop by and play, or learn to play, the African board game Mancala at a game station.
Museum Archives selects and screens a short documentary film on African culture.
An African Marketplace and African Foods
Throughout the celebration, visitors have the chance to browse and shop at an African mini-marketplace featuring wooden, leather, and bronze accessories, as well as colorful prints, art, jewelry and apparel available for purchase, from special vendors, including Rashida Watson of The Silk Tent, Puyâ Yohannes of Bole Lig, Chakir Bouchaib of Little Marrakesh Bazaar, and Desiree Langford of Nayaz Boutique. Guests can also stop by the Museum Shop, which features a collection of African-inspired and fair trade, African-made items.
The Museum’s Pepper Mill Café also gets into the spirit, offering an African-inspired lunch menu for purchase.
World Culture Days: Passport to The World
The Celebration of African Cultures is part of the Penn Museum’s popular World Culture Series designed to introduce visitors of all ages to the rich cultural traditions found throughout the Museum’s galleries and throughout the world. Upcoming World Culture Days include Egyptomania (March 24) and Jamaica Day (June 2). Guests are invited to pick up a Passport to Cultures at any admission desk to begin collecting stamps during any of the World Culture Series celebrations. Collect 10 or more stamps to earn an invitation to a special Penn Museum Junior Anthropologist ceremony!
The Africa Gallery features objects from cultures throughout the continent. Highlights include Akan gold weights, and musical instruments made from wood, skins, gourds and plant fibers. The Museum was among the first American museums to begin collecting art and artifacts from Africa; most items in the collection were obtained between 1891 and 1930. The adjacent Imagine Africa exhibition invites visitors to explore their own understanding of Africa via broad themes and artifacts on display—and provide feedback about what interests them, as the Museum makes plans for an updated suite of Africa Galleries to open in late 2019.
The Museum’s renowned Egypt (Sphinx) and Egypt (Mummies) Galleries feature a massive red granite Sphinx (the largest Sphinx in the Western hemisphere); monumental architecture, art and artifacts from 5,000 years of Egyptian culture; and the story of mummification in the exhibition The Egyptian Mummy: Secrets and Science.
Schedule for the day:
11:15 a.m. African Animal Yoga for Children
11:30 a.m. Short Documentary Film
noon Women’s Sekere Ensemble
12:30 p.m. Culture Shock Dance Performance
1 p.m. Queen Nur Storytelling
1:30 p.m. Dunya Performing Arts Company Drum Workshop
2 p.m. Catskill Puppet Theater, Inc: The Lion’s Whiskers
2:15 p.m. Women’s Sekere Ensemble
2:30 p.m. Dunya Performing Arts Company Dance Workshop
3 p.m. Argeggio Jazz Ensemble Performance and Workshop
3:15 p.m. Short Documentary Film
3:45 p.m. African Rhythms Dance Performance
Throughout the day:
- African Marketplace
- Mask-making and Jewelry-making Station with Black Artists Collective
- African Map-making Station with artist Bole Lig
- Mancala Game Station
- African Menu in the Pepper Mill Café (fee)