To the beat of the conga drum, Malcom Johnson, a carpenter from Baltimore, danced the West African "Welcome Dance" to get things moving at the "African Celebration" held last night at the Last Hurrah restaurant.
Johnson is a member of the group Olufunmilayo, Nigerian for "God Gives Me Joy." Before the group's exhilarating performance, the crowd of nearly 250 miled around cultural exhibits presented by the embassies of Ghana, Cameroon and Kenya. Paintings by Cheryl Miller, drawings by Malik Edwards and photographs by Al Price all featured traumatic scenes from African and Afro-American life.
Price's photographs of tribesmen and villages in Kenya drew a large crowd. "I have been showing my work in the public schools," said Price. "It is interesting to see what kind of myths kids hold about Africa. For example, everyone seems to think Africans run around buck naked. It's not true. I have photos of women in Calvin Klein jeans walking along the streets of Nairobi. The kids couldn't believe it."
Arnold Wallace, general manager of the black-owned TV station WHMM, has also returned from a recent trip to Africa. "I am just back from Kenya, and it's good to see that here in Washington we're starting to do something about showing the arts and artifacts of Africa," said Wallace. "I have seen this kind of thing at embassies, but it is rare when a few countreis get together in one place like this for such an event." The African Celebration is part of African Heritage Month.
After the dance program, everyone crowded around the buffet tables to get at the authentic African cuisine prepared by Ibraham Thiero, a chef from Mali who came to the Last Hurrah three months ago.
The guests ate jollop rice, a specialty of Sierra Leone; chicken yassa, of Senegal; fried okra, of Zaire; and goat curry, of Nigeria. During dinner, Thiero looked out at the crowd rushing from the buffet to the tables and said, "I think I like it here in American, but sometimes people just move too fast."