International Relations Club asked the unthinkable last Friday night, challenging students to surrender an hour and a half of the start of the weekend for a cultural event of modest size. However, 30+ students were happy to do so, and it created a fantastic evening event filled with laughter, thoughtful questions about culture and wide smiles in between bites of “African doughnut” and sips of Kenyan tea. “African Night” is the first in a series of more focused events held by International Relations Club that zoom in on the locales Hope’s international students hail from, and it seems to be off to a great start. Sophomore students Brenda Indekwe and Kenneth Munyuza shared about the sights and sounds of Rwanda.
Indekwe discussed the strong proenvironment and pro-economic reform stance the country has taken. She further discussed the moniker “the land of 1000 hills” that Rwanda holds to, described as such for the beautiful rolling green hills that dot the landscape, with paths carved through for the farmers who contribute to Rwanda’s 80% agricultural economic backbone. While the tone of the presentation was upbeat, there was a looming question regarding what many Americans recall the country for: the Rwandan genocide during the 1990s. Indekwe was careful to note the significance of the event and didn’t shy away from discussing it, but she chose to be positive about the country’s future: “We’ve come very far from the deep, dark place we once were.” The second presentation was conducted by Eunice Maruhi, a sophomore-year student from Kenya. She spoke on the country’s positioning as a great African financial center, due to its proximity to the Indian Sea and thriving tourism.
Kenya is also home to “The Big Five”: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos. Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi is famous for having a National Park teeming with wildlife right in the middle of the city. Maruhi further shared on the cultural trend Matatu, which decorates public transport to make life a little more fun. Other subjects discussed were the significance of the country’s flag, an enormous crack in the middle of the Kenyan landscape and the pulse-pounding tradition of stealing wildebeast meat directly from packs of lions. After the presentations were over, the group descended into the basement to munch on Mandozi – an African palmsized, square pastry made from just seven ingredients. Light in flavor and with an addicting aftertaste, it was a perfect companion to the Ketepa black tea served alongside it. The night ended with dance lessons from Indekwe, who emphasized the flowing nature and stylistic pomp inherent in Rwandan dance.
Makena from Kenya, class of ’22, had this to say about the evening: “[The event] gives our perspective and our experiences… it’s really nice [IRC] put this event on, and it’s a good reminder of home.” Maruhi also had this to share about the benefits IRC events pose to the college’s cultural health in general: “We hope that such events help in debunking stereotypes about Africa.” A good time and a great learning experience, interested students are encouraged to sign up for the IRC email list and keep an eye out for future events.